Largest in Area--Origin of Name--Early Settlers--Famous Landowners--"Bradford," a Memory--Atwood Borough--Green Oak--Sagamore--Barnard--"Tottenham"--Rural Village--Yatesboro--Early Manfacturers--Pioneer Churches--Roads and Schools-- Population--Valuation--Geology
This is the largest township in the county and was formed in 1848 out of parts of Kittanning, Plum Creek and Wayne townships. The first election occurred in 1849 and the result was: Justice of the peace, Samuel Cassady; constable, John Adams; assessor, Samuel Black; assistant assessors, Jacob Beer and James Stewart; supervisors, John Whittaker and John Stoops; school directors, Samuel Elgin, John McEwen, Samuel Fleming, Samuel R. Ramage, William McIntosh and Joseph Elgin; overseers of the poor, Alexander P. Ormond, William Rearich; judge of election, George Stewart; inspectors of election, James Reid, Robert Neal; township auditors, Joseph Kirkpatrick, William Sloan, Samuel Potts; township clerk, David Hill.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME
The township was named Cownashannock from the beautiful creek which flows through the center of a picturesque valley, cutting the township almost into two equal parts. The name is of Indian origin and was suppossed by some to mean "banks of flowers." That pretty conception of the meaning of Cowanshannock is, however, spoiled by the reality, for Heckewelder says: "Cowanshannock, a branch of the Allegheny in Armstrong county, corrupted from Gawansch-hanne--signifying green-brier stream, or brier creek. Gawunschige--briery." So it must be inferred that the Indians found this now lovely valley more thorny than rosy.
The purchase line of 1768, or the old purchase line, as it is often called, traverses the township from the chestnut tree mentioned in the boundaries at the angle south of the north branch of Plum creek in the line between this and Indiana county, north 79 degrees west, passing through the brick house of John Boyer about twenty-five rods east of Huskin's run, and crossing the western boundary of the township a little above the angle therein. All that portion south of that line was taken from Plum Creek townshp, and was included in the old purchase of 1768, and it constitutes about one third of the territory of Cowanshannock township.
Some of the earliest settlers were: Alexander Dallas, John D. Mercer, David McCausland, James Dundas, Parsons Leaming, John Byerly, Jacob Amos, Mary Semple, Joseph Fisher, Joseph Nourse, Patrick Farrell, Samuel Fisher, James Guthrie, Thomas Bradford, Elizabeth Henderson, Andrew Henderson, George McLaughlin, Robert Semple, William Finney, John Black, William Wistar, John Dealing, Isaac and Samuel Morris, John Lart, Daniel Wampler, George Snyder, John Gill, Jacob Beer, Benjamin Davis, George and Michael Somers, Jonathan D. Seargeant, Richard Wells, Henry Shade, John Foyle, James Kirkpatrick, T. W. Hiltzheimer, John Simpson, John Denniston, John Sloan. All of these were above the aforementioned "purchase line." One of them, Richard Wells, was a spy in the Revolutionary War.
Settlers south of the "purchase line" were: James Oliver, Alexander McCreary, Hugh Elgin, John D. Mercer, James McGranahan, Finney Templeton, William Wistar, Benjamin Davis, James Dubbs, Charles S. Cox, James Abercrombie, John Vanderen, Richard Wells, Daniel Wampler, Samuel F. Peters, Samuel Brown, John Black, David Reynolds, Alexander Reynolds, Martin John, Daniel Devinney, Thomas Bradford, Daniel Fyock, Richard Coulter, William McLaughlin, John Fitzer, John Vanderen, Joseph Spicher, George Harkelrode, Henry D. Foster, John Young. One of the owners of a large tract in this township, south of the "purchase line," was Thomas Bradford, a printer of Philadelphia.
One of the oldest settlers of this section of the county was James Simpson, who removed in 1807 from Indiana county to the part of this township near the present village of Meredith. Soon after he settled there he was offered as much land as he could see from his residence for a cow, but was too poor to make the trade. Another old settler was Smith Neal, a veteran of the Revolution, having been present at the surrender of Cornwallis. He settled east of Rural Valley in 1833, dying in 1863, almost a centenarian.
The early settlers were chiefly agriculturists. Those following other occupations were very rare. The nearest gristmill was Peter Thomas', built in 1803, until Jacob Beer, Sr., built his on Huskins' run, in or about 1819.
Other mills were Andrew Ormond's on Cowanshannock creek, Early's mill on Big run, and Sloan's mill on Plum creek, which latter included a sawmill and fullingmill. A sawmill was built in 1840 by Samuel Black in the southwestern part of the sownship, near Huskin's run. The first store was opened by the Roberts Brothers in 1831.
The town of Bradford was laid out in 1818, at the junction of a small stream with a larger one; at the cross roads, where the old Franklin and Indiana road crosses the Elderton and Martin's ferry road on the Samuel Fisher tract between Atwood and Green Oak. In 1820 it consisted of twenty lots, assessed at $100. In 1823 William Coulter kept a hotel there and was assessed with four lots and two houses. He resided there three years. John Kier, blacksmith, was assessed the same year with one house and three lots, and William McLaughlin with the same amount of property. Thereafter "Bradford" disappeared from memory and the assessment list.
The site of this little town in 1860 was covered with the primeval forest when Dr. Thomas H. Allison came here. He was the first to clear away the forest and found a home. Robert W. Smith, the historian and at time county superintendent of schools, describes the primeval appearance of the scope of country around Atwood, when he was there on his tours of official duty in 1866. He says the town was fittingly named, for it had just begun to emerge from the woods. An unbroken wilderness stretched for miles around it. It had been suggested to name the place after Dr. Allison, but he refused absolutely to permit it, so the present appropriate name was selected. In 1876 the town contained twenty-four houses, one hotel, three stores, two blacksmiths, one cabinetmaker and two wagonmakers. The population was about 193. The only physician was Dr. John W. Morrow, who had settled there in 1873.
The number of acres of land in the borough in 1913 were 1,527, valued at $22,516; houses, and lots, 38, value $6,850, average $180; number horses, 44, value $1,230, average, $27; number of cows, 32, value $445, average, $14; taxables, 62; total valuation $34,269. Money at interest, $13,671.84.
The first congregation organized here was the United Presbyterian in 1815, Rev. Mr. Jamison holding the first services under the white oak trees near the home of Samuel Sloan, Sr. It was called the Associate Presbyterian Congregation of Concord and the membershp was thirty-five. For a time Rev. David Barclay preached and finally Rev. John Hindman entered upon a pastorate which lasted from 1832 to 1840. Following came Rev. William Smith, from 1851 to 1859, when the name of United Presbyterian Church of Concord was adopted. In 1876 Rev. David K. Duff became pastor, remaining until 1882. The present pastor is Rev. W. E. M. Copeland.
The first church was a log house, put up in 1826. The second, a frame edifice, was built in 1852 at a cost of $2,000. The third edifice, also frame, was erected in 1873.
Early in March 1873, Rev. Andrew Virtue began to preach to the Presbyterians in the schoolhouse at the village of Atwood, and in September 1874, the church was regularly organized with the following members: A. A. Marshall, Sarah Marshall, Alexander Guthrie, Nancy Guthrie, Mary McCausland, Margaret McCausland, Washington McLaughlin, Mary O. McLaughlin, William McCausland, Elizabeth McCausland, Mary W. McCausland, Andrew Campbell, Emma L. Campbell, John Guthrie, Fanny Guthrie, Jesse Henderson, Jane Henderson, James Campbell, Rachel Campbell, Sarah H. Guthrie, George Campbell, Catherine Campbell, Moses Foreman, Rachel Foreman, Violet Foreman, William Lewis, Matilda Dodson, Charlotte Jamison, John Blystone, Mary Blystone, Horace Harding.
Rev. N. B. Kelly was the first pastor after Rev. Andrew Virtue, beginning his pastorate in 1887. His time was divided equally between Atwood and Rural Valley.
In 1879 a frame building was erected at a cost of $2,000, and this, with several alterations, has served the congregation ever since. The present pastor is Rev. L. H. Shindeldicker.
A schoolhouse is located opposite the church. At one time a private school was held in the building but it is now included in an independent district. In 1913 the number of months taught were 7; one male teacher was employed at a salary of $50. There were 21 male scholars and 22 female, with an average attendance of 34. The total cost per month of each scholar was $1.45; tax levied, $130.72; received from State, $199.32, from other sources, $319.74; value of schoolhouse, $600; teacher's wages for year, $350; expended for fuel, fees, etc., $145.67.
The school directors are: A. L. McCullough, president; John A. McLean, secretary; D. C. McCoy, treasurer; W. H. Rankin, S. A. McLean.
J. W. Marshall was the first postmaster in 1868. John A. Johnston the second, and Dr. John W. Morrow the third. the present one is John Hoover.
Atwood was made a borough in 1884, the first burgess being J. C. Duddy, who was also the hotelkeeper. Dr. C. P. McAdoo was located here from 1883 to 1890. Dr. D. T. McKinney is the present physician, coming here in 1898. Porter M. Clark is the present burgess.
GREEN OAK VILLAGE
In the summer of 1869 Washington Crisman laid out the town of Green Oak in the southeastern part of the township on the Elderton and Martins Ferry road, just on the line of Plum Creek township, so that about half of the town is in each township. It was surveyed by John Steele into lots respectively 60 by 120 feet. One of the lots was sold for $40, and eleven for $30 each. The new town contained one store (Josiah J. Shaeffer's), through the center of which passed the township line, one blacksmith shop, and seven dwellinghouses. It is presumed, from the large number of arrowheads found here, that this was formerly an Indian encampment, hunting-ground, or battlefield.
The sawmill assessed for the first time to William Sloan in 1837, and the carding-machine and fullingmill assessed to him for the first time in 1843, were on the run emptying into the north branch of Plum creek, within the limits of Green Oak.
An extension of the Buffalo & Susquehanna railroad from Sagamore is expected to pass through this village.
This mining town was the result of the opening of coal mines and the extension of the Buffalo & Susquehanna road from Dubois. The Buffalo & Susquehanna Coal and Coke Company operate five mines, employing 806 men, and produce an average of 600,000 tons of coal yearly. H. A. Moulder is the superintendent. The company store is kept by A. R. McHenry.
The town has one hotel kept by M. I. Hay, seven stores, and a number of other taxable professions. W. L. Buchanan is postmaster and Charles V. Starr principal of the school. The resident physicians are Drs. Ralph K. Mead and Charles F. Seaton.
The Presbyterian Church here is served by Rev. L. H. Shindeldicker.
Numines is a settlement clustered about the mine of the Cowanshannock Coal & Coke Company, and the storekeeper is J. L. Snedden.
This place is located on the old turnpike from Smicksburg to Kittanning, in the extreme northeast corner of the township, and is named after George A. Barnard, who kept a hotel there in 1845. David Kirkpatrick built a gristmill here in 1837, which he sold to Barnard in 1845. John McFarland had a brickyard here in 1842. John T. Kirkpatrick was the first postmaster and storekeepter here in 1858. Hugh Rutherford was a tailor here in 1837. The village now contains one blacksmith shop, one store and six houses. The rural route has superseded the post office.
Near here were the famous fish ponds of Jacob Lias in 1875, located in the forks of the two branches forming the fifth northern tributary of the Cowanshannock creek, west of the Indiana county line. The three ponds were well stocked with trout and perch and supplied with fresh water from a large spring.
"CENTERVILLE" OR "TOTTENHAM"
was laid out by Hamlet Totten in 1859 or 1860. It was called Centerville on the attest township map, and contained eleven dwelling houses, one cabinet-maker, one carpenter, one sewing machine agent and about forty inhabitants. It was near the site of the present settlement of "Meredith."
RURAL VALLEY BOROUGH
John Patterson settled in the central part of this township on Cowanshannock creek, and gave the name of "Rural Valley" to the homestead, from the quiet beauty of this natural rural landscape. The post office of Rural Valley was established here in 1830 at his residence, he being postmaster. In 1835 Ebenezer Cross erected here a gristmill.
In the summer of 1836 John Patterson laid out the old plot of the village, consisting of forty lots on each side of the turnpike. This portion of the valley proved attractive to settlers and the sale was quite successful. Thompson Purviance, the pioneer merchant of the new village, opened his store in 1836, and David Patterson the next year. Their successors were Robert A. Robinson, John McElroy and Joseph Alcorn, who for some years kept a cooperative store which was not a success. Other later merchants were George B. McFarland, James E. Brown, George A. Gourley, Andrew Gallagher, Joseph K. Patterson and James McFarland. The second innkeeper was Zachariah Knight.
In the fall of 1839 Alexander Foster and his son of the same name laid out the new plot of the village adjoining the old one on the west. Their sales were as successful as that of the old plot.
Purchasers of the old plot were Joseph Buffington, Samuel Cassaday, Samuel Flemming, Alexnader Foster, William W. Gibson, James Gourley, Zachariah Knight, Andrew McCloskey, Samuel Potts, Samuel Ramage, Archibald L. Robinson, Martin Schreckengost, Samuel Smith and James Strain.
Purchasers of the new plot: William Aitkins, Jacob Beer, James Boyd, Peter Brown, Richard Crim, Archibald Finley, Alexander Foster, James Gibson, Wesley W. Knight, Benjamin Schreckengost, Robert Stoops, John Uplinger.
The first resident doctor was William Aitkins, the first blacksmith, James Gourley.
A select school, for the teaching of Latin, Greek and mathematics, was opened by Rev. Jasmes D. Mason in 1845 in the Presbyterian church. He was succeeded in the work by Rev. Cochran Forbes, and he by Mr. John McElroy in a building erected by him on his own premises. Other teachers during a period of twenty-five years were H. C. Fouke, Mr. Talmage, T. R. Ewing, Louis Kimmel, Joseph Beer, L. M. Belden and others. The school was not opened continuously and is now closed.
The first church in the village was the Presbyterian. A number of persons of this denomination had been meeting in a schoolhouse two miles west of the village, and in 1835 they issued a call to Rev. Joseph Painter to preach to them for $500 a year. The original members were: Ebenezer Smith, Maria Smith, Richard Caruthers, Elanor Caruthers, Lyly Kerr, Ann Kerr, Samuel McGorkle, Eliza McGorkle, William McIntosh, Margaret McIntosh, John Alcorn and wife, Alexander Foster, Martha Foster, John Stoops, Catharine Stoops, Arabana Hanegan, William McCain, Isabella McCain, James White, Robert McIntosh, William Powers, Mary Powers, Elizabeth Reed, James Elgin Martha Elgin. The original building was of logs, 24 by 24, heated by a single stove, It was as square as the character of its builders. "Well, do I remember it, when a boy," says an early writer. "In winter, going to church was to me an ordeal. The chilly atmosphere, scarcely affected by the solitary stove, was an unfavorable condition for the development of piety in a boy." Within two years the removal to the village was decided upon and Alexander Foster gave an acre on high ground a little out of the town for the site. Here was erected in 1838 a brick building, 30 by 40 feet, but it proved defective, the walls bulged badly and it was abandoned in 1849. In 1850 a frame edifice was built on the lots first given by John Patterson, which was replaced in 1890 by a more modern church. Rev. James D. Mason came as pastor in 1843, remaining until 1848, being succeeded by Rev. Cochran Forbes, 1849 to 1854; Rev. William F. Morgan, 1855 to 1875; Rev. J. H. Kerr, 1876 to 1885; Rev. Newton B. Kelly, in 1887. Rev. Charles Halliwell is the present pastor.
Christ Evangelical Church was organized in 1901 by the Missionary President of the General Synod, and Rev. J. M. Hankey of the Pleasant Union Church began to preach at the schoolhouse in the adjoining village of Yatesboro. The first members were: John F. Rupp, Mrs. E. M. Rupp, L. E. Selvis, Mrs. L. E. Selvis, N. H. Selvis and wife, J. M. Kirkpatrick, Mrs. N. J. Kirkpatrick, Mrs. Hannah Kirkpatrick, W. D. Smith and wife and David Stoops. John F. Rupp and W. D. Smith were the first elders, and L. E. Selvis and J. M. Kirkpatrick, deacons. For a time services were held in Sheftigs Hall every two weeks, and a Sabbbath school, of which L. E. Selvis was superintendent, met weekly in the same place. In 1902 a new pastorate was formed of this and the Pleasant Union congregation, with Rev. J. W. Tressler in charge. He was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. C. F. Gephart, in 1912. In 1903 the church bought two lots in Yatesboro and erected a combination store building, in part of which they held services. But in 1913 they sold the building and removed to their new church a fine brick building, valued at $5,000, located at Rural Valley. The present membership is twenty-three; Sabbath school, forty-eight.
The Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1851, and was incorporated in the Dayton circuit. It occupies a frame structure, built in 1852, and the pastor is Rev. William Hamilton.
The postoffice was removed to the village by John Patterson, who was succeeded by Thompson Purviance, Robert A. Robinson, Joseph Alcorn, John Colwell, Zachariah Knight, Henry Keck, Dr. William Aitkins, George A. Gourley.
Rural Valley Lodge No. 766, I. O. O. F., was instituted here in 1871, with twenty-one members. It is still in a flourishing condition.
The assessment list for the year 1876 shows: Merchants, 4; mason, 1; physician, 1; tinsmith, 1; peddler, 1; printer, 1; blacksmiths, 5; carpenters, 2; justice of the peace, 1; wagonmakers, 3; laborers, 4; shoemakers, 2; tailor, 1; artist, 1; innkeepers, 2. The number of taxables is 43, giving a population of 197. The first school within what are now the limits of this village was taught before 1836, in the first log cabin built here, by Thomas McElhinney, afterward a member of the bar of this county, and the author of several treatises and a biography of Martin Van Buren.
The population of Rural Valley, after its incorporation as a borough in 1900, was 763 in 1910.
The assessment returns for 1913 show: number of acres of land, 2,503, valued at $44,035; houses and lots, 213, value, $97,066, average value, $455.70; number of horses, 124, value, $3,690; cows, 53, value $716; taxable occupations, 322, amount of tax, $11,960; total valuation, $160,007. Money at interest, $80,512,18.
The village now consists of eleven stores, one druggist, one baker, one harnessmaker, two undertakers, three liverymen, three barbers, one blacksmith, one dentist, one milliner, one hotel and a restaurant.
Drs. S. E. Ambrose and Thomas F. Stockwell are the resident physicians and O. S. Marshall is an attorney living in the village. C. H. Huber, also a resident, is a veterinarian.
The Rural Valley National Bank was organized in 1902 with a capital of $55,000 and now has a surplus of the same proportions. The officers are: R. M. Trollinger, president; J. A. Bowser, vice president; C. C. Farren, cashier.
The present flouring mill would hardly be claimed as a successor of the old gristmill of Ebenezer Cross in 1835, for it is decidedly an up-to-date plant in every respect. W. P. Lauster is the proprietor and the plant is valued at $22,000.
The local paper, the Advance, was started about 1894 by O. S. Marshall, the present attorney of this section, and was a success from the beginning. At present it is ably conducted by H. O. Peters,, who is somewhat more prosperous than the usual country editor.
P. T. Ammond is the burgess for the term of 1913.
In 1913 there was one school in Rural valley; months taught, 7; male teacher, 1; female teachers, 4; average salaries, male, $75; female, $50; male scholars, 102; female scholars, 94; average attendance, 165; cost per month, $1.82; tax levied, $2,521.80; received from State, $833.01; other sources, $4,453.61; value of schoolhouses, $8,900; teachers' wages, $1.925; fuel, fees, etc., $3,123.69.
The school directors for that year were: S. E. Ambrose, president; H. C. Shea, secretary; R. M. Trollinger, treasurer; H. S. Schlemmer, J. E. Richards, J. J. Johnson.
This mining town, founded in 1900, is practically a part of Rural Valley, being less than half a mile from it. The mines of the Cowanshannock Coal & Coke Company practically support the town, and most of the residents are unnaturalized foreigners.
The Catholic Church here was served last by Father C. Federici, who died this year in the town and is buried there.
The Lutherans had a store building, which they used in part for religious services, but in 1913 they removed to Rural Valley.
A very good hotel, the Central, is kept by D. E. Tracey, and the coal company's store is managed by W. G. Miller. Dr. John A. James is the resident physisican.
The mines are the largest in the county, employing 1,075 men, and producing 825,000 tons of coal in a year. James Craig is the resident manager. Railroad branch lines connect all of the five mines with the Rural Valley railroad. The mines are assessed at $108,550.
Blanco is a small settlement in the southwestern part of the township, on Huskins' run. It has one store and a church, the latter used by various denominations.
John Schrecongost, Sr., and Martin Schrecongost, brothers, were each first assessed with one hundred acres in the year 1814, and John Schrecongost, Jr., with one thousand acres in 1819. The elder John began the manufacture of plows with wooden moldboards, soon after he settled here. He was called "Gentleman John" because of the comparative neatness of his apparel, polished manners and gentlemanly bearing.
Two military companies--the Wayne Artillery and the Pine Creek Infantry--and a large number of citizens celebrated the Fourth of July, 1837, at Martin Schrecongost's house. The Declaration of Independence was read, and some remarks were made by Mr. A. L. Robinson. The other features were the parade and evolutions of those military companies, and volunteer toasts of a decided partisan tone given by members of both of the political parties, Whig and Democrat.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Plum Creek is located on that stream in the eastern part of the township, near the line of Indiana county, a short distrance from the town of Sagamore. The nucleus of this church consisted of the families of Conrad Lukehart, Andrew Weamer, Andrew and Philip Harmon, Philip Bricker, Christian Hoover, Philip Whitesell and John Byerly, residing in that vicinity in 1829. Rev. Gabriel A. Reichert preached to them in German and English in the barn of Philip Bricker, close to the county line. The church was organized in 1830, and until 1833 services were held in the log barn in the summer and in dwelling houses in the winter. In the latter year Philip Bricker gave half an acre for the site and others contributed logs, rafters and other building materials.
The resultant edifice was a hewed log structure, 28 by 32 feet. William Rearigh did the carpenter work and various members of the congregation did the "chunking and daubing." The floor was made of loose boards. It was used in an unfinished condition until 1835, when the doors, windows and board ceiling, tight floor, high pulpit and neat seats were supplied. It was then regarded as the neatest church in this section, and was used until 1861, when the present frame edifice, 45 by 55 feet, well and neatly painted, furnished, seated, plastered and papered, was erected on a site adjoining that of the other in this township, at a cost of $2,000, and for style and finish was then considered the best in this section. It was named St. John's Evangelical Lutheran church. Its original number of members was eighteen; its present, 196. Rev. Gabriel A. Reichert continued his ministerial services six time a year to this congregation until 1839. After he left, this church united with the Indiana and Blairsville charge. His successors were: Rev. Jacob Medtart, 1839 to 1843; Rev. H. Bishop, 1843 to August, 1846, when this congregatioin was united with Smicksburg; Rev. A. C. Ehrenfeld, 1847-49; Rev. G. M. Pile, 1851-52; Rev. F. A. Barnitz, 1852-54; Rev. Christian Diehl, 1854-59; Rev. C. L. Streamer, 1859-69; Rev. P. S. Hooper, 1869-72; Rev. G. A. Lee, 1872-74; Rev. W. E. Crebs, 1874-79; Rev. Ephraim Miller, 1879-81; Rev. J. T. Gladhill, 1882-83; Rev. Amos Sell, 1884-85; Rev. Reuben Smith, 1886-90; Rev. J. W. Hutchison, 1890-92; Rev. William Hesse, 1893-97; Rev. M. L. Schmucker, 1897-1900; Rev. George O. Ritter, 1900-1913. Membership in 1913, 120; Sabbath school, 96.
The Sabbath school of this congregation was organized in 1840, with Thomas R. Lukehart as superintendent and Jacob Weamer, assistant. Robert Whiteacre was the first librarian.
About a mile north of the Lutheran church is located the German Baptist or Dunkard church building, a neat frame structure. This congregation was organized in 1832, and the first resident minister was Rev. George Rearich. Revs. Levi Wells, Robert Whiteacre, J. B. Wampler, S. W. Wilt were his succcessors. Members in 1880, 105; Sabbath school, 80. The congregation has been disbanded for some years.
Pleasant Union Evangelical Lutheran Church is situated in the northwestern part of Cowanshannock, near the Wayne township line. Owing to its location at the forks of the Blairsville and Franklin roads, it is also called the "Crossroads church." Its organization is due to the efforts of Rev. Frederick Wise, Reformed preacher, to force his congregation to accept his choice of site in erecting a church in 1857. For some years the Reformed denomination had held services in the Schaum schoolhouse, but they decided in 1856 to build a home. Some favored the crossroads site, while others the one on Pine creek. Rev. Mr. Wise agreed to let the party taking the largest subscription decide the matter, but after the crossroads people collected the greater amount he refused to agree to their choice. He then agreed to compromise, but as soon as the books were in his hands he arbitrarily said, "we will build on the old site at Pine creek." The crossroads crowd became angry and resolved to build a church of their own, appointing W. T. Schreckongost, Jacob S. Rupp and Benjamin Geiger as a committee. When their cornerstone was ready to be laid Rev. Mr. Wise refused to have anything to do with it or to permit another Reformed pastor to come to the field. That settled the matter for the congregation, and they went over to the Lutherans in a body.
The cornerstone was laid in 1857 by Revs. Gabriel A. Reichert and Michael Sweigert, the former preaching in German and the latter in English. The building was a frame with high pulpit and but one aisle. Rev. Mr. Sweigert was elected as the first pastor and served until 1862. He resigned and at the same time introduced his successor at a Sabbath meeting, without a prelimiary warning to the congregation. He invited Rev. Jacob H. Wright to preach for him and at the close of the sermon rose and said: "Dear Bretheran: I cannot serve you any longer. I am a very busy man. I have seven or eight congregations. So I gives you over to Brudder Wright, and he is now your pastor. And so, my peoples, I bids you farewell." This was a resignation, election and installation in an abridged form not common to Lutheran usage, but the congregation accepted it without murmur.
Rev. Mr. Wright served the congregation for twenty-six years, his successors being Revs. J. W. Hutchison, 1888; Samuel Krider, 1889; S. V. Dye, 1889-93; William Hesse, 1893-97; J. W. Tressler, 1898-99; J. A. Flickinger, 1899-1900; Joseph Minto, 1900; Jacob M. Hankey, 1900-02; J. W. Tressler, 1902-12. The present pastor is Rev. C. F. Gephart, who also serves the Yatesboro congregation.
In 1890 it was decided not to further repair the old church, but build anew. Most of the work was done by members of the church, who also contributed the materials. The cost was $3,000 and the cornerstone was laid in 1890. Improvements have since been made to the completed edifice and it is a credit to the locality and its builders. The membership in 1913 is 37; Sabbath school, 30.
ROADS AND SCHOOLS
This township was not well supplied with good public roads until 1845. The Kittanning and Smicksburg turnpike had been authorized twelve years before but had lapsed from indifference. The original route was changed in that year after pledges had been made by the inhabitants of Rural Valley to build several miles of road if the new route through that place was adopted. Those pledges were kept.
Some of the early schoolhouses in this township were built before 1820. The first four were of the usual log construction and were located at the most convenient points. One, the third erected, was about a mile northwest of Atwood on land of D. McCoy. It was noted for its three-cornered chimney and was heated by an iron kettle filled with coal, the earliest use of that fuel in this part of the county. Christopher Hoover resided near and boarded the teacher, John Russell, during the winter sessions. Six more structures were built after 1820 and were used until the common school law was passed in 1834.
One of the pioneer teachers before that law was passed was James Cogley, who could recite the tale of "Robin Hood," but whose learning was confined to a superficial knowledge of the three "R's."
In the year 1845 Rev. James D. Mason opened a school in the Presbyterian church at Rural Valley, giving instruction in Latin, Greek and literature. He was succeeded in the work by Rev. Cochran Forbes, and he by Mr. John McElroy in a building owned by the latter. Other teachers during a period of twenty-five years were: H. C. Fouke, T. R. Ewing, Louis Kimmel, Joseph Beer and L. M. Belden. The second was only operated intermittently and finally closed.
In 1860 the number of schools in this township was 15, average number of months taught, 4; male teachers, 11; female teachers, 4, average monthly salaries of male, $14.45; average monthly salaries of female, $13.50; male scholars, 340; female scholars, 334; average number attending school, 405; cost of teaching each scholar per month, 34 cents; amount levied for school purpose, $1,192; received from State appropriation, $130.70; from collectors, $682; cost of instruction, $854; fuel and contingencies, $64.70; repairing schoolhouses, etc., $18.
In 1876 the number of schools was 16, average number months taught, 5, male teachers, 11, female teachers, 5; average monthly salaries of male, $34; average monthly salaries of female, $35; male scholars, 407; female scholars, 352; average number attending school, 532; cost per month, 85 cents; amount of tax levied for school and building purposes, $3,700. Reciepts--from State appropriation, $493.83; from taxes, etc., $3666.06; cost of schoolhouses, $564; teachers' wages, $2,745; fuel, contingencies, etc., $597.29.
Number of schools in 1913, 32; average months taught, 7 1/8; male teachers, 11; female teachers, 21; average salaries, male, $51.36; female, $45.48; male scholars, 716; female scholars, 745; average attendance, 1,055; cost per month, $1.62; tax levied, $12,808.07; received from State, $5,515.54; other sources, $15,744.91; value of schoolhouses, $48,000; teachers' wages, $11,019; fuel, fees, etc., $9,985.47.
The school directors are A. C. Crawford, president; W. L. Buchanan, secretary; S. J. McElwaine, treasurer; Charles Facemeyer, R. C. Neal.
The census of 1850, the first one after the organization of this township, shows its population, including that of the villages, to have then been: white, 1,318; colored, 0. In 1860, white, 1,963; colored, 1. In 1870, white, 2,246; colored, 0; native, 2,155; foreign, 91. The number of taxables in 1876 was 599; and the population, estimated on that basis, 2,755. The assessed valuation of this township, in 1850, was: Real estate, $90,020; personal property, $13,295; single men, $2,900; occupations, $400; money at interest, $1,651; carriages, $325; watches, 50 cents. Total, $107,791.50. The total valuation of the same, single men omitted, in 1876, was $817,051.
Occupations, other than agricultural, exclusive of Atwood and Rural village, not wholly according to the assessment list for 1876: Laborers, 28; blacksmiths, 5; merchants, 5; carpenters, 8; stone-masons, 6; miners, 2; shoemakers, 2; teachers, 3; harness makers, 3; painter, 1; gristmilles, 2; sawmills, stationary, 5; portable 1; tanneries, 2. According to the mercantile appraiser's list, there were 21 merchants of the fourteenth and two of the thirteenth class.
The population of the township according to the census of 1890 was 2,170. In the next year Rural Valley was incorporated as a borough. In 1900 the population of the township was 2,697; in 1910 it was 4,428. This increase is accounted for by the opening of several mines and the influx of large numbers of foreigners.
The assessment list for 1913 shows: number of acres of timber land, 2,428; cleared land, 24,241; value of land, $374,820. Houses and lots, 711; valued at $246,419; average value, $346.58. Horses, 474; value, $21,646; average value, $47.77. Cows, 509; value, $7,619; average, $14.96. Taxables, 2,407; amount, $110,140. Total valuation, $1,117,916. Money at interest, $85,620.20.
Nearly all the surface rocks of this township are lower barrens. The country along the creek is famous for its smooth, fertile soils. The lower productive rocks are above water level for about a mile along the north branch of Plum creek, extending into Indiana county. A small area extends southward from Wayne township up the valley of Pine creek to Gourley's. A much larger and more important area projects eastward from Valley township. The lowest rock exposed is the ferriferous limestone, only in the extreme western edge of the township.
The rocks are nearly horizontal, the township representing the edges and center of the synclinal, of which Rural village is about the center.
Somewhat beyond the northern boundary of Plum Creek township, at Patterson's mill, on the Cowanshannock creek, the Kittanning bed, covered by 40 feet of shale, reads thus: Bituminous shale, 3 feet; coal and slate interleaved, vegetable impressions numerous, 12 inches; coal, 12 inches, 7 feet above level of water; floor, black slate. Lower down it reads thus: Black slate, 5 feet; coal, 5 inches; bituminous pyritous slate, 18 inches; coal, 15 inches; slaty coal, 14 inches.
Two miles west of Rural Valley, on a farm formerly known as Smith's tract, the upper Freeport coalbed is 150 or more feet above the creek, and is 4 feet thick, of good quality, but with a little sulphur. Ten feet below it is the ferriferous limestone, 5 feet thick. Fifty feet below the limestone is seen the lower Freeport coal, said to be 1 1/2 feet thick. Upwards of 100 feet lower down, near the creek level, is the Kittanning coalbed, thickness unknown. This locality is on the east side of the fourth axis, and distant from it about 2 1/2 miles; dip southeast.
The highest point in the township, 1,525 feet above sea level, is in the extreme northeastern portion on the line of Valley township, near the south fork of Pine creek.
Source: Page(s) 211-230, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed July 1998 by James R. Hindman for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by James R. Hindman for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)
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