Chapter 20
Kiskiminetas Township

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This township was named from the river which forms its southern border. Heckewelder, a Moravian missionary, who was well versed in Indian dialects, says Kiskimenetas means "make daylight" and is corrupted from the Indian word Gieschgumanito. It was probably the word of command given by a chief to his comrades to arise and resume the journey at daybreak.

The township was formed in 1831 out of the upper end of Allegheny township, and the boundaries are the Kiskiminetas river on the south, Indiana county and South Bend township on the east, Burrell township on the north and Parks township on the west. Apollo is the only borough within its borders. Spring Church, Equitable, Shady Plain, Maysville, Hicksville and Edmon are villages of varying sizes distributed over the township.

This section was visited in 1750 by Christopher Post, an emissary of the Ohio Company, an association organized by Lawrence and Augustine Washington for the purpose of settling the wild lands west of the Alleghenies. He states in his journal of that year that on "Wednesday, 14, set out north to Loyal Hannon, an old Indian town on a creek of the Ohio, called Kiskeminetas, to an Indian camp on said creek."


The owners of the seventy-five original tracts of land in the territory of this township were: John Montgomery, James Watson, Joseph Campbell, John Criswell, John Clark, Peter Yarnall, Hugh Bingham, Christopher Hays, John Henderson, James Biddle, William Jackson, Jacob McCartney, John Jackson, John Miller, Jacob Miller, Robert Clark, James Jackson, Robert Watson, Robert Raltston, William Kerr, James Armstrong, Joseph Irwin, Samuel Hutchison, John Martin, John Reighley, Isaac Warner, Alexander Black, John Pirn, T. Shoemaker, James Alexander, John Larner, Michael Campbell, Joseph Eakman, John Burghy, Robert Kilgore, Jonathan Nesbitt, John Wilson, Reese Meredith, John Ewing, Daniel O'Brian, Jacob Burghy, Philip Schellhamer, Peter Van Gelder, Andrew McKee, Evan Evans, Andrew Boner, Henry Walker, John Steele, John Swoft, Joseph Swift, John Schoemaker, John Kline, Andrew Scott, Thomas Duncan, Barnabas Bloss, James Wallace, John Fuller, Jacob Mechlin, Christopher Hayes, Thomas Allibone, Peter Yarnell, Isaac Townsend, Adam Johnston, Jacob Stilley, James Guthrie, Jacob Wolf, Michael Anderson, Samuel Guthrie, William Todd, Samuel Coulter, Joseph Shields, Henry Horn, Michael Anderson, Michael Sauerwalt, John Dornmoyer, George Clymer, George Reading, Jonathon D. Sergeant, Matthew Lampton, William Sampson, Moore Furman, Joseph Shirley, John Musser, Samuel Gray, John Swift, Frederick Foulk, Isaac Morton, John Barr, Henry Lyle, James Kerns, Benjamin Shermer, Nicholas Weitzel, Alexander Todd, Andrew Cunningham, Henry Bech, George Morgan, Robert Shirley, Abraham Schoemaker, Christopher Eiseman, Abraham Hunt,

Samuel Handcock, Isaac Allen, John Leasure, Barnabas Steer, Solomon Dornmoyer, Benjamin Counch, William Ball, Samuel McClelland, John Laughlin.

In 1850 the various tracts in Kiskiminetas township were rated at from twenty-five cents to one dollar an acre.

Some of the warrants and patents for the tracts of land in this township are dated as easly as 1773, but the country was not settled very rapidly until after 1810.


The first miller of note in this township was William Hess, who ran a gristmill in 1810. Michael Anderson, James Findley and Robert Watson built and operated sawmillls between 1811 and 1830.

The assessment lists show the following industries in the several years mentioned: Benjamin Couch, grist and sawmill in 1818; Jacob McCartney, fulling mill, 1820, gristmill in 1826, and a factory in 1843; Isaac Townsend, sawmill in 1824; John Fuller, grist and sawmill in 1830; Joseph McGuery, sawmill in 1831.

For many years after the first settlers came the patronized the famous Stitt's mill, in Allegheny (now Parks) township. They even began a road to that mill, but did not complete it.

In 1876 there were one gristmill and two sawmills in the township. A woolen mill was located on a branch of Rattling run, operated by Cooker & Moore. It is long out of use now. Most of the sawing is now done by portable mills.

The tanneries in this township were those of Raymond Dentzell, 1829; John Keely, 1834: Philip Hines and Philip Ventzel, 1850 to 1860; and R. M. Barr, 1865 to 1876. There are no tanneries in Armstrong county in 1913.


This township has the honor of being the home of the first iron furnace in western Pennsylvania, and the remains of this ancient "tea-kettle" stone structure are a point of interest to picnic and hunting parties from Apollo and all the surrounding towns. Views of the ruins and of other later examples of furnace construction in this county are shown elsewhere.

Rock Furnace was established by James W. Biddle in 1825, near the Big Falls, on the Kiskiminetas River, who announced in his advertisement for woodchoppers and other laborers, dated Oct. 5th, that it would "be in blast on Christmas day." It was a steam cold blast furnace, eight feet across the bosh by thirty feet high. The fuel used was charcoal. The number of employees is said to have been from fifty to seventy-five. It was located on the Christopher Hays and John Henderson tract, between the mouth of Roaring run and its junction with Rattling run. It did not prove to be a pecuniary success either to its first or subsequent owners. It was finally sold by the sheriff. The last owners were Sharp, Woodard & Bro. That was the first and last furnace for the manufacture of pig iron in this township.


Eight different saltworks appear to have been assessed from 1836 till 1845, respectively, to Robert F. Stewart, John Laughlin, Bridget Trux, William H. Richardson & Co., John Johnston, H. Ridenour, J. McCauley and McCauley & Gamble. Those owned by Gamble & Son, about a hundred rods below the mouth of Flat run, continued to be operated after 1876. The mode and expense of drilling the wells and manufacturing the salt need not here be repeated. The barrels in which the salt was put up were at first brought to the wells on pack horses, and, after being filled were transported to Pittsburgh down the Kiskiminetas and Allegheny rivers in canoes and flatbeds. Considerable quantities were sent to Clarion and Jefferson counties by sled and wagons. Those modes of transportation of course ceased after the completion of the Pennsylvania canal, which also increased the activity in various other branches of business.


The improvement of the Kiskiminetas was commenced in 1811 by the removing of rocks and other obstructions as far up as the "Packsaddle." For years before that it had been dangerous boating over Big Falls, and several people had been drowned there. By the act of 1821 the sum of $5, 000 was appropriated to improve the navigation of the Kiskiminetas and Conemaugh rivers, and George Mulholland, Peter Wallace, Andrew Boggs, John Hill and Jacob Drum were appointed commissioners to supervise the expenditure.

After the completion of the Pennsylvania canal, abour 1828, a dam was built known as Dam No. 2, at the foot of Big Falls, making slackwater navigation up to Dam No. 3, in Indiana county.

Boats in the canal were locked into the river just above Apollo, the ruins of the old locks being still visible near the mouth of Roaring run. From Apollo to Dam No. 1 at Leechburg there stretched a great artificial lake which covered what is now the roadbed of the West Penn trolley line with three feet of water. At that time there was good fishing in the Kiskiminetas, but at present, owing to the pollution of the mills and mines, not even an insect can live in its waters. Yet it is still unlawful to fish in the waters with seines, although there is not the slightest possibility of catching anything but a severe cold or being suffocated by the foulness of the stream.


In 1862-63, on the farm of widow Coulter, Samuel Lack cut down a white oak tree, near a small run that empties into the Kiskiminetas about fifteen rods above the gravel bar, whose diameter was three and an half feet. In sawing and splitting the trunk for barrel heads, he discovered a blaze which appears to have been made with the bit of an ax, when the diameter of the tree was ten inches. Between the blaze and the bark were 246 rings of annual growths.

About three miles above Apollo, on the right bank of the Kiskiminetas, is a sandstone rock projecting out over the bank about nine feet. The space between the ground and side of the rock at the front is about nine feet. The rock slopes back to the ground a distance of about 12 feet. It gained considerable notoriety in that region by reason of a strange family by the name of Dunmire, who claimed to be part Indian, having resided there under the rock more or less of the time during several years, from whon it is called "Dunmire's Rock." There is about it considerable pebblestone, in which is something resembling lead, which can be cut with a knife.


This little village is situated on Long run, three miles above its junction with the Kiskiminetas near the border of Avonmore, Westmoreland county, and is in the southeastern part of the township. Its early records showed a population of seventy-five in 1876. The Long run post office was established here in 1857, with Samuel Orr as the official in charge. In 1880 there were 4 laborers, 3 merchants, 4 farmers, 2 carpenters, 1 shoemaker, 1 blacksmith and 1 miner in the village. John McAwley and James McAdoo were the storekeepers.

The Lutherans of this community attended services for some years at "Yockey's Church," in Westmoreland county, but in 1853 they organized and called Rev. J. N. Burket as pastor. There were nineteen original members, most of whom came from the Spring Church congregation. Their first church was erected in 1854 and dedicated by Rev. David Earhart, who afterwards served them in the course of his travels over Armstrong and Indiana counties. The subsequent pastors were Revs. John A. Delo, 1860-64; John Welfley, 1864-68; Michael Colver, 1869-70; A. W. McCullough, 1870-72; J. F. Tressler, 1872-75; G. F. Schaeffer, 1876-82; C. B. King, 1883-90; T. J. Frederick, 1890-95; E. B. Burgess, 1895; O. F. Sanders, 1895-98; W. A. Hartman, 1898-99; J. C. Nicholas, 1900-01; M. S. Kemp, 1902-12. The present pastor is Rev. William A. Logan, who also serves the Avonmore congregation. The membership in 1913 is 100, and the Sunday school has 120 members.

The present house of worship was erected in 1886, and cost $2,247. It is a large frame building and the town is justly proud of it.


This settlement is named from the boiling spring and the Presbyterian Church of that name located there. The first postmaster here in 1852 was Robert M. Beatty. His grandson, W. W. Beatty, is the present one. The only merchant here is Alvin Fiscus.

There are two churches here, the Lutheran and the Presbyterian, both of which, together with a Reformed congregation, were occupants until 1873 of the same edifice.

About 1839 the three bodies cooperated in the purchase of a plat and the erection of a log church, which was not completed until 1842. In the following year the Presbyterians sold their interest and agter a few years the Reformed members were absorbed by the Lutherans. In 1871, the present building was erected at a cost of $2,000. The pastors have been: Revs. Jacob Zimmerman, 1842-49; John Rugan, 1849-51; J. N. Burkey, 1851-53; David Earhart, 1854-60; John A. Delo, 1860-64; John Welfley, 1864-68; Michael Colver, 1868-72; J. F. Tressler, 1872-75; D. R. P. Barry, 1875-75; G. F. Schaeffer, 1876-82; C. B. King, 1883-90; T. J. Frederick, 1890-1910. Rev. T. J. Frederick resides near the church, but he has retired, and the pulpit is suppliled by Revs. C. G. Leatherman and T. G. Himes, D. D. from nearby churches. The church membership is now sixty-one, and the Sunday school is one hundred.

Rev. Jacob Zimmerman is still living in this year of 1913, at the age of ninety-five, and is in good health. He resides with his son Harry, near Leechburg.

Boiling Spring Presbyterian Church was organized in 1840 at the house of Charles Means, with twenty-five members. Among them were: William James, Isaac Warner, Raymond Dentzel, Hon. Robert M. Beatty, Hugh Graham, John Leech, Adam Ashbaugh, William Ashbaugh, Daniel Deemer, Mrs. Margaret Scott, Samuel Martin, Andrew Miler, Sr., David Risher, Joseph Wilson, William Wilson, John Wilson, Charles Means, William Gallaher and Joseph McGeary. Rev. Levi M. Graves was the first pastor, serving until 1843. "Union Church," a frame structure, erected that year, was jointly used by the German Reformed, Lutheran and Presbyterian congregations. In 1870 the building was sold and separate edifices erected by the different congregations; the Presbyterians built in 1872, the Lutherans in 1873. Poverty and privation were endured by the attendants in those early days. Some of them came to services on horseback, but many walked the long distance from their homes, generally carrying their "Sunday best"shoes in their hands, only donning them when in sight of the sacred edifice. Communions were held twice a year,

tokens bearing the letters "B. S." and made of lead distributed the Saturday previous and taken up on the Sabbath by the elders at the communion table. Rev. Cyrus B. Bristol in 1846 became the second pastor, continuing until 1856. Next came Rev. James E. Caruthers in 1859, and then for eight years the pulpit was fulled only occasionally. During this time another and larger church was built. Rev. Perrin Baker then in 1875 began a two years service, followed by Rev. Hezekiah Magill, 1877-70; Rev. Samuel E. Elliott, 1880-84; and Rev. J. Q. A. Fullerton, 1885-90. Following this the congregation has been occasionally supplied by the pastors of the Presbyterian Church at Apollo. The present pastor is Rev. J. W. Brockway.


This settlement has a schoolhouse, a store, and the Zion's Valley Reformed Church, where occasional services are held. The first postmaster here in 1868 was David P. Alexander. The people are now supplied from Apollo by the rural routes.


This village is across the river Kiskiminetas from the borough of Avonmore, a thriving town of Westmoreland county. Just west of Hicksville the Pennsylvania road crosses to the north side of the river, from this point using the old bed of the Pennsylvania canal, which has been abandoned by them from Leechburg to this point. This gives Hicksville more direct railroad connection than Apollo, but the place has not benefited by it, having become overshadowed by its neighbor, Avonmore. The only distinction claimed for Hicksville is that of being the most southern village in Armstrong county, the boundaries coming almost to a point here.


As was the case in other parts of the county, Kiskiminetas township had no regular school teachers in early times, but had to depend upon the few educated persons who could be induced to take up this unremunerative and often distasteful task. The first schoolhouses were of the usual log construction, very poor in their furnishings, and were run on the subscription plan.

The first school house, built about 1810, was situated at or near the present site of Maysville, and soon after another one was built near Flat run. Another and later one was in the Watson settlement. Moset of these were served by William Watson, James Jackson, and Jacob Miller. Before 1822 a log school stood on the Benjamin Schirmer tract, called "Scara," owned by Robert Wray and afterward by his son, the late David Wray. Among its earliest teachers were James Craig and Samuel Scott. The number of scholars ranged from fifteen to twenty. The building stood about 20 rods from the present Shady Plain school. Craig also taught at times in a dwelling house on the same tract, near which in 1820 stood an old hunting lodge.

The free school system was readily adopted. Among its most devoted and persistent supporters was the late Joseph Shoemaker, who was for many years a school director, and a model one, so far as a prompt, cheerful and conscientious discharge of official duties was concerned. The old log schoolhouses, even of the second series and better class, have given place to comfortable frame ones, distributed at convenient distances over the township, and they are supplied with the most thoroughly competent teachers it is possible to obtain.

In 1876 the number of schools (exclusive of those now in South Bend township) was 13; average number months taught, 5; male teachers, 9; female teachers, 4; average salaries, males per month, $34.55; average salaries, females per month, $32.50; male scholars, 253; female scholars, 223; average number attending school, 372; cost per month, $1; total amount of tax levied for school and building purposes, $3,587.15; received from State appropriation, $400.83; from taxes and other sources, $2,474.34; total receipts, $2,875.17; cost of school houses, purchasing, renting, repairing, etc., $62.71; paid for teachers' wages, $2,309; paid for fuel, fees of collectors, etc., $486.66; total expenditures, $2,858.37.

In 1913, the number of schools is 18; average months taught, 7; male teacher, 1; female teachers, 17; average salaries, male, $40, female, $46.96; male scholars, 337; female scholars, 336; average attendance, 524; cost per month, $1.76; tax levied, $5,293.74; received from State, $3,281.70; other sources, $6,110.87; value of schoolhouses, $30,800; teachers' wages, $5,870; fuel, fees, etc., $1,328.27.

The school directors were: John H. Wilson, president; G. E. Van Tine, secretary; C. P. Fiske, treasurer; J. R. Lambing, J. W. McAwley.


The general, the almost universal, occupation of the people of this township, has, from its earliest settlement, been gricultural. As to those engaged in other occupations the assessment list of 1876 shows, exclusive of Maysville: Laboreres, 68; carpenters, 9; miners, 15; teachers, 6; blacksmiths, 4; shoemakers, 2; saltboilers, 1; miller, 1; cigar manufacturer, 1; professer, 1.

After its erection several attempts were made to divide the township, those creating Burrell and South Bend being the only successful ones. In 1840, before its dismemberment, Kiskiminetas township had a population of 2, 287. In 1850 it was 2,230; in 1860, after a part of Burrell township had been taken from it, 2,080; in 1870, after South Bend township was formed, 1,728; in 1880, 2,005; in 1890, 2, 452; in 1900, 2,620; in 1910, 2, 845.

The assessment returns for 1913 show: Number of acres, timber, 4,274; cleared land, 22, 468; value of land, $415,246; houses and lots in the township, 444, valued at $$93,647; average value, $210.91; number of cows, 442, valued at $6,645, average value, $15.03; number of horses, 478, valued at $17, 710, average value, $37.05; taxable occupations, 996; amount $22,580; total valuation, $646,411. Money at interest, $62,547.92.


Reference is made to the sketches of Gilpin township for the southern portion of this township, and South Bend and Burrell townships for the northern portion, in regard to the geological formation of the region in which Kiskiminetas is included. The Roaring run anticlinal, named from this stream in the southern part, runs from northeast to southwest through the center of the township.

The highest point in the township is located in the northern portion, between Spring Church and Shady Plain, and is 1,543 feet above the level of the sea.

Source: Page(s) 182-186, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed July 1998 by Donna E. Mohney for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Donna E. Mohney for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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