Chapter L
History of Union Township 

Union township was organized in 1849, being taken from Rose and Eldred, and made the nineteenth in number. The name was derived from the term applied to our whole country and which signifies so much to the American citizens. It is bounded on the north by Eldred, on the east by Eldred and Rose, on the south by Clover, and on the west by Clarion county.

Drainage. - Mill Creek flows northwestward through a deep and rugged valley, which extends along the entire northern edge of the township. Little Mill Creek, also flowing west, has cut another deep ravine a few miles farther south. South of the 1ast and running due east and west is a narrow but distinct watershed, which divides the waters of the Clarion River from those of the Red Bank. The Brookville Pike follows the summit of this divide and thus plainly marks its course upon the map. South of the divide are several small runs, of which the most important is Coder and Welch Runs.

The average altitude above sea level along the divide is about 1,550 feet, which expresses very closely the elevation of the uplands throughout the township. Corsica stands at its level, so also does Roseville and the Methodist Church on the divide between the two Mill Creeks. Here and there are prominent knobs which rise for 100 feet or so above the general average and form conspicuous summits or "round tops." Evans’s round top, the most prominent feature in the topography of Union township, is an instance of one of these summits

Geology. - While all the Kittainning coal beds are found in Union township the Kittanning middle seam is the best and is found from four to five feet in thickness.’ This is the bed worked at W.B. Cowans, where in all the rooms of the mine it shows three feet of good coal with slate roof and fire- clay floor. The coal at William B. Kennedy’s and William L. Morrison’s is the same as that found in the Cowan mine. The Brookville coal is also found three feet thick but is of an inferior character. The Freeport limestone is also found at Henry Evans’s and other parts of the township, four feet in thickness and of good quality for fertilizing purposes.

Early Settlers. - The first settler in what is now Union township was John Scott, a brother of Samuel Scott, who came with the Barnetts from Lycoming county. He married a daughter of Paul Clover and made the first improvement where the town of Corsica is now located about 1802. William Love came from the vicinity of Sligo, then Armstrong county, about 1820, and there was then but one family living there, that of John Scott. Mr. Love would therefore be the second citizen of Union. He settled on the farm now owned by heirs of Andrew Steele. His son William’s widow is now living in Corsica, aged eighty- four years, and has in her possession the first old- fashioned wheel for spinning flax that was made in this part of the country. A daughter of William Love, Miss Elizabeth, who is eighty- one years of age, also makes her home in Corsica.

One of the first settlers was Elisha M. Graham, who located on the farm now owned by Sheridan McCullough, to whom he sold it in 1829.

Samuel D. Kennedy, whose history is given in that of Rose township, settled about a mile and a half east of Corsica on the farm now owned by Samuel T. Simpson in 1825. In the little log cabin his good wife for weeks at a time lived alone while he was absent at work and many a time the Indians would come and chop on the trees with their tomahawks near her house, and she could see the red eyeballs of the wolves as they glared at her through the cracks of her humble dwelling.

Probably the next settler after Scott and Love was Alexander Powers; he also located at the intersection of the Pike with the Olean road.

Samuel Davison, afterwards a resident of Knox township, was one of the first to make any improvement in that section on the farm now owned by James Millen. One of the first improvements was in what is now Cowan’s orchard, where the first blacksmith shop was located. John Devens was the blacksmith and was at work there when William McKee, about 1823 or 1824, first visited that neighborhood. Mr. McKee returned in 1837 and located on the farm where he now resides, and he also worked at blacksmithing.

One of the early settlers in Union was Joseph Kaylor. Mr. Kaylor first settled in what is now Rose township near the present residence of William Rodgers where he made the first brick in the county and where was located the first brick yard. He removed from there to the farm near Corsica now owned by Joseph Matson, where he built a large brick house and where he resided until his death. Both Mr. and Mrs. Kaylor were very hard working and energetic, and it is said of the latter that after assisting her husband all day in the brick- yard, she would sit up nearly all night and knit stockings. They passed their later years in ease and comfort.

Rev. William Kennedy came with his family in 1823 and located on the farm now owned by his son, William B. Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy was one of the pioneer preachers, and was the first settled minister in the county. Three of his children, William B., John M. and Mrs. Mary Hindman reside in Union township.

Previous to 1827 John Barnett settled on the farm now owned by Jonathan Haugh, and Peter Walters settled on the farm now owned by Robert Hindman, about 1828.

John Christy settled on the farm now owned by John Green, in 1826. Michael Shadle made first improvements about 1828 on the farm now owned by John Morrison. William Mendenhall settled on the farm now owned by his heirs, previous to 1827. Mr. Mendenhall died in 1870. John W. Monks settled on the farm now owned by his son, G.D. Monks, in 1828. William Summerville, in 1829 settled down in the woods and cleared the farm now owned by Nathaniel Oaks. Joseph Hughes, William Morrison, and James. Sharp, came previous to 1827, John Fleming about 1829, Michael Troy in 1831 or 1832. The White’s came at an early day. Samuel Love is also an old resident of the township.

The first marriage of which there is any record was that of James Hindman to Miss Rachel Christy about 1825 or 1826.

The first deaths were Alexander Powers and Mrs. Sharp, mother of Thomas and Samuel Sharp, who reside in Union. These deaths occurred about 1827. They were both buried in the old grave- yard on the present Cowan farm, and were the first interred there. Mrs. William McKee states that she, with a Miss Lott and another lady whose name she cannot recall, were the only women at Mr. Powers’ funeral, and that she helped prepare the shroud in which he was dressed.

Mr. William McKee states that when he first came to the neighborhood, there was an old school- house built of logs, standing on what is now the Rensell place, opposite Cowan’s. It had first been built and used as a shanty by the men who worked on the turnpike. He says that the family of John Matson attended that school. The next school- house was built on the top of the hill west of William McKee’s, in 1834 or 1835. The first church was the old Bethel, built in 1824, about three miles west of Brookville, near the present residence of Mrs. Cowan. Soon after it was built a fire broke out in the woods surrounding it, and the logs of which the church was constructed were much scorched and blackened, presenting a rather hard appearance. In 1830 or 1831, the church was divided by a new congregation being organized at Brookville, and for a time what is now the Corsica congregation, worshiped and held their communion services in John Christey’s barn, as the old church had become unfit for use.

The first grave- yard, as has been stated, was started on the farm now owned by the heirs of James Cowan, and there repose nearly all the pioneer settlers of Union - the Christys, the Kaylors, the Hughes, Mendenhalls, and many others. This ground is still used as a burial place by some of the descendants of the early settlers buried there.

The first grist- mill was built at Corsica, and the first saw- mill was erected on Little Mill Creek, where the Olean road crosses, by Nathan Bunker.

The first coal was taken out on the Mendenhall farm, opposite Cowan’s. The coal of Union township was mostly developed by James Cowan, who followed mining in and about Corsica for about twenty years. Mr. Cowan’s settlement in Eldred township has already been noticed. He removed to Union in 1866, where he purchased ten acres of land from G.H.S. Brown, and afterwards, in 1867, bought the Joseph Hughes farm, where he resided until his death, in 1878, and where his wife and family still reside.

Among the oldest persons, and longest residents in Union are Mr. William McKee, who is now eighty- two years of age, and his wife, who is not much younger. They have lived in Union over sixty years. Mr. Sheridan McCullough is now in the eighty- fourth year of his age, and has resided in Union about fifty- eight years. Mr. McCullough for some years has been almost blind. He says that the worst experience he had in farming in Jefferson county was caused by the long and severe drought of 1844, which was of longer duration than that of the summer of 1887 - no rain fell for many weeks. The streams were almost all dry, and the mills stopped for want of water. Mr. McCullough had taken grain to four different mills, but though he went to the mills time after time, he found his grain unground, and his family had to subsist on potatoes. When he had gone for the ninth time to mill, his son David, and daughter, Elizabeth, who were digging potatoes upon which to make another meal, descried him coming, and perceiving that he had at last a "grist" with him, threw down their hoes and rushed to the house, knowing that they would have bread at last. Mr. William B. Kennedy, though not the oldest in years, is probably the oldest citizen of the township, to which he came with his parents almost sixty- five years ago.

Nearly every person who travels the road between Corsica and Brookville knows where "Ghost Hollow" is. This dark, gruesome place is the ravine of Campbell’s Run, where, years ago, a man named Campbell built a saw- mill, the rotting timbers of which are still to be seen. It is said that one evening in 1831 a terrific rain and wind storm visited the locality, and that all those from Union who had been in Brookville that day took shelter from the storm at the house of Joseph Clements, except one man who, with his wife and two children, were in a carriage, drawn by two horses. Although the others earnestly besought him to stop until the storm was over, he refused, saying he would go on to his destination or to h - , and drove on. When the storm had subsided it was found that a large tree had fallen across the carriage, crushing it to the ground, and killing this man, who was driving, instantly, while the horses and other inmates of the carriage escaped unharmed. It was for a long time asserted by the ignorant and superstitious that the hollow where this occurred was haunted by the ghost of this unfortunate man, who would appear to belated travelers, and one stage driver asserted that on one dark, stormy night his horses were stopped by the ghost, at which he threw a hatchet. The ghost must have been somewhat dishonest, as the hatchet could not be found the next morning. The uneasy spirit of Ghost Hollow seems to have been appeased of late years, as very little is now heard of it, only as a legend of the past, the only excitement that the locality has had in later years being the unsuccessful attempt to get gas in the hollow, a test well being put down there in 1886.

Present Business, etc. - At present there is only one store in Union township, kept by William B. Cowan at his coal mines. There are two saw- mills, both on Little Mill Creek, one owned by Marlin Brothers, and the other by Charles Love. There is no hotel in the township outside of Corsica, and for a number of years there has been no licensed house.

Mail facilities are supplied to the citizens of Union by the post- offices of Corsica and Brookville.

Farms - Farming is the principle business of Union, and among the best improved farms are those of William L. Morrison, Joseph D. Orr, Crawford Hindman, Matson Knapp, Joseph Matson, Thompson Moore, James Moore, Hugh Magill, J.H. Kennedy, David Simpson, Robert Hindman, James Cowan’s estate.

Those farmers .in the township paying the most attention to raising improved stock are: I.M. Knapp, Peter B. Cowan, and Thompson Moore.

Excellent fruit, apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, etc., are raised on nearly all the farms.

Elections. - At an election held in the township Of Union, on the 25th day of February, 1850, the following persons were elected: Justices of the peace, William H. Barr, John W. Monks; constable, Anthony Rencill; supervisors, Samuel Hindman, Joseph Hughes; assessor, J.K. Mendenhall; auditor, Joseph Summerville; fence appraisers, Michael Haugh, Joshua McKinley, William Kelly; overseers of the poor, John J.Y. Thompson, Joseph Kaylor; school directors, George H.S. Brown, Samuel Sowers, William M. Hindman; town clerk, Ebenezer Barton; judge of election, George H.S. Brown; inspectors, David Lamb, William McKee.

At the election held February 15, 1887, the following township officers were elected: Constable, George Shultz; tax collector, George Shultz; school directors, N.J. Hawk, L. Clinger; supervisors, N.J. Hawk, J.W. Kyle; auditor, John Morrison; assessor, James Brown; justice of the peace, James Brown; poor overseer, G.W. Kelso; town clerk, John Mendenhall; judge of election, R.A. Summerville; inspectors, G.B. Orr, J.P. Steel.

The other justice of the peace is J.T. Aaron, and R.A. Summerville, S. Snyder, William Moore, and J.H. Summerville are the other members of the school board of Union.

The number of taxables in Union township in 1849 was 93; in 1856, 179; in 1863, 110; in 1870, 156; in 1880, 205; in 1886, 206. The population, according to the census of 1850, was 597; 1860, 542; 1870, 595; 1880, 809. The decrease of taxables and population was on account of the erection of Corsica into a borough in 1859.

The triennial assessment for 1886 gives the number of acres of seated land in Union township as 9,980; valuation, $42,163 ; average value, $4.43. Sawmills, 3; valuation, $400. Unseated, 274 acres; valuation, $1,888; average per acre, $6.89. Number of horses, 155; valuation, $3,670; average value, $ 22.93. Number of cows, 223; valuation, $1,904; average value, $8.53. Oxen, 2; valuation, $40. Number of occupations, 49; valuation, $1,865; average, $38.00. Total valuation subject to county tax, $51,930. Money at interest, $14,192.

The number of schools in Union township for the year ending June 7, 1886, were 5; average term taught, 5 months; teachers, 3 females and 2 males; average salary of female teachers, $27.00; males, $23.43; number of male scholars, 123; number of females, 116; average attendance, 169; per cent of attendance, 84; cost per scholar, 56 cents; mills levied for school purposes, 13; mills levied for building purposes, 2; total amount of tax levied for school purposes, $764.02.


The first improvements made in what is now the borough of Corsica, was about 1802, as has already been stated, by John Scott and Alexander Powers. The first hotel was McAnulty’s, which was located at the intersection of Olean road and the pike, and the first store was Lee Tipton’s in 1835 or 1836. The town was first surveyed and laid out in 1847 by John J.Y. Thompson and Daniel Stanard, Esq., of Indiana. Mr. Thompson had previously purchased a tract of land of Mr. Stanard, embracing what is now the town of Corsica, where he erected a hotel and where he was appointed postmaster in 1843. Mr. Thompson gave the name Corsica to the new town, calling it for the birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte, an island in the Mediterranean. In 1856 Corsica is spoken of by the papers of the day as "a thriving town seven miles west of Brookville, with about three hundred citizens, and containing five stores, three taverns, two blacksmith shops, two churches, and one in process of erection, two groceries, two tailor shops, two shoe shops, one wagon shop, one cabinet shop, one school- house, a line of stages passes through east and west daily."

Corsica was incorporated as a borough in 1860. Among its oldest citizens besides those already mentioned, is Hon. Peter Clover, eldest son of Paul Clover, one of the first settlers in Clearfield county. John Scott, the first settler at Corsica, married Mr. Clover’s sister. He was one of the first Methodists in Jefferson county, being one of the original members of the class formed at Troy. Mr. Clover is now ninety- two years of age, but retains all his mental faculties unimpaired.

Another of the old residents whose history is interwoven with the first era of civilization in Jefferson county is the venerable Isaac Jones, son of Peter Jones, who has been already noticed in the history of the first settlers of the county. Mr. Jones’s mother was a sister of John Scott above noted. He has resided during the greater part of his life on his farm west of Corsica, in Clarion county, but in his declining years has come to Corsica, where his son, Joseph Barnett Jones, resides. Mr. Jones, who is now in the eighty- seventh year of his age, in 1826 married Jane Love Wilson, who is also past eighty. They have been more graciously favored than usually falls to the lot of persons wedded here below, having in 1876 celebrated their golden wedding, and January 9, 1886, celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of that event at the home of their son, J.B. Jones, of Corsica. A sister of Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Nancy Henderson, wife of Judge Henderson, of Brookville, was the only one present on this occasion who had witnessed the ceremony sixty years before. Mr. and Mrs. Jones are cheerful and happy in their old age, and bid fair to celebrate more anniversaries of their marriage day.

Two of Mr. Jones’s children reside in Corsica, Miss Rebecca with her aged parents, and J.B. Jones, who is one of Corsica’s most prominent citizens, having for about fifteen years been engaged in merchandising and lumbering there.

Fires. - Corsica has been twice terribly devastated by the fire fiend. The first fire occurred on the night of March 17, 1860. The loss principally fell upon E.B. Orcutt, whose hotel, occupied by Calvin B. Clark, was destroyed. The entire loss was estimated at $3,000.

In 1873 nearly the whole town was laid in ashes, the loss being estimated at $100,000.

The first grist- mill in Union township was built in Corsica by John P. Wann, a short time before the big fire.

Pisgah Presbyterian Church was the first erected in the town, and the first grave-yard was laid out adjacent to it, the first interment being a child of David and Polly Lamb. Mrs. Lamb, the mother of this child, now resides at Port Barnett.

Present Business - In 1887 the business register of Corsica was as follows:

J.B. Jones, general store; G.M. Simpson, dry goods and groceries; R.R. Snyder, dry goods and groceries; Isaac Lucas & Son, dry goods and groceries; F.R. Knapp, groceries and feed; Mrs. Ellen Ray, millinery goods; Miss Hettie Reed, millinery goods; Holden & Scott, drug store; C.N. Ray, dentist; D. Glenn & Co., shoe shop; W.H. Scott, shoe shop; Robert Moore, shoe shop; H.A. Smith, blacksmith; P.C. Love, blacksmith; A.P. Simkins, blacksmith; J.A. Myers, harness maker; Jones & Orr, planing- mill; A. Knabb, stave- mill and jointer; A.M. Slack, dealer in wagons and buggies, and undertaker; E.B. Orcutt, hotel; W.B. Glenn, barber.

There are three churches in Corsica, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic. Corsica sustains an excellent select school, or academy.

The post- office at Corsica was established in 1843, and the present post- mistress, Mrs. Sarah A. Reed, has handed out the mail to the citizens of that pleasant little town for the past twenty- five years, having been appointed in 1862.

Elections. - The first election after Corsica became incorporated as a borough, was held in 1860, and resulted in the election of the following town officers:

Justice of the peace, James Garvin, S.P. Barr; constable, H. McGiffin; town council, W.B. Mapes, S.C. Espy, F.H. Sowers, J.C. McCombs, William B. Slack; auditors, D. Undercoffer, G.H. Kennedy, J.L. McCullough; assessor, J.W. Rea, J.J. Merideth; judge of election, William B. Slack, J.H. Dill (tie vote); inspectors, Samuel Short, F. Sowers; school directors, J.W. Rea, William B. Slack, J.W. Ardery, J.C. McCombs; burgess, A. Slack.

At the election held February 15, 1887, the following persons were elected:

Burgess, N. Taylor; justice of the peace, A.M. Slack; constable, W.H. Glenn; town council, A.P. Simkins and I.D. Lucas; school directors, John McCullough and A.P. Simpkins and John Myers, tie vote; poor overseer, John McCauly; assessor, Samuel Cable; collector, J.M. Garvin; auditor, W.B. Reed; judge of election, J.H. Monks; inspectors, Harry Thompson and I.H. Smith.

The other members of the school board are A. Knabb, N. Corbet, J.H. Monks and R.R. Snyder.

The taxables in Corsica in 1863 were 45; in 1870, 89; in 1880, 91; in 1886, 126.

The population of Corsica in 1860 was 249; 1870, 372; 1880, 391.

The triennial assessment for 1886 gives the number of acres of seated land in Corsica as 211; valuation, $3,053; average per acre, $14.42; number of houses and lots, 112; valuation, $10,171; number of horses, 47; valuation, $1,390; average value, $29.57; number of cows, 36; valuation, $336; average value, $9.33; number of occupations, 69; valuation, $1,890; average, $27.39; total valuation subject to county tax, $16,840; money at interest, $32,603.

The number of schools in Corsica borough for the year ending June 7, were three; number of months taught, five; one male and two female teachers; salary of male teacher, $35; females average salary, $26.50; number of male scholars, 60; females, 71; average attendance, 105; per cent of attendance, 94; cost per scholar, 64; thirteen mills levied for school, and five for building purposes; total amount of tax levied for school and building purposes, $1,300.56.

Source:  Page(s) 636-643, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Jefferson County Genealogy Project (

Jefferson County Genealogy Project Notice:

These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format, for any presentation, without prior written permission.

Return to the History of Jefferson County Index

Return to the Jefferson County Genealogy Project

(c) Jefferson County Genealogy Project