Chapter LIV
History of Knox Township 

Knox made the twenty- third township and was taken from Pine Creek. It was organized in 1853 and called for Hon. John C. Knox, then president judge of this judicial district. It is bounded on the north by Pine Creek, on the east by Pine Creek and Winslow, on the south by McCalmont and. Oliver, and on the west by Rose and Oliver.

Topography. - The greater part of Knox township is situated between. Sandy Lick Creek on the north and east, and Five Mile Run on the west. The southern border rests on McCalmont and Oliver townships. The topography of Knox township consists of a network of valleys and ravines, some of them deep and others shallow, some with steep precipitous walls, and others with gentle slopes, separated by narrow ridges of land, the summits of which are of very uniform height. The average elevation of these summits is about. 1,750 feet above tide level, (barometrical measurement), some few points in the township, as for example a prominent knob on the Mathews farm, and another on the Shaffer farm are even higher than this. Knoxville stands on an elevation of 1,700 feet above the ocean, the Low Grade Railroad skirting Sandy Lick Creek is 1,341 feet above the ocean at the mouth of Camp Run, and, 1,268 feet above the same datum at Bells Mills, above the mouth of Five Mile Run. These figures sufficiently express the range of elevation from the bed of the deepest valleys to the summit of the uplands. The drainage system is. simple and sharply defined. The waters in the southern part of the township flow southward through the ravines of Indian Camp and Elk Runs into Little Sandy Creek. The western side of the township, and much also of the northern part is drained by Five Mile Run. The water basin of Sandy Lick on the northern and eastern side, is there confined very nearly to the hills that overlook the stream.

Geology. - The Freeport Lower coal is the principal seam in Knox township, being by far the most reliable, and yielding the best coal. It is found from three to five feet thick, easily mined and of excellent quality, and covering a large area. Limestone is found, of good quality, and so near the surface that it can be easily and cheaply quarried for use as a fertilizer; good fire- clay is also found in Knox.

Early Settlers, etc. - The first pioneers, in the wilds of what is now Knox township, were Joseph Karr, who in 1817 settled on the farm now owned by Manuel Reitz. George Gray and Samuel McQuiston, came in 1827, the former settling on the farm now owned by David Carr, and the latter on that now the property of William McMillen; Andrew Hunter on farm now owned by his son, S.A. Hunter, in 1834; John Mathews on the farm now owned by his son, John Mathews, about 1830; Jeremiah Parker settled on the farm now owned by David Chitester; Thomas Ellis on a farm where he cleared some land, then sold to James Loughrey, who in turn sold to Samuel Davidson about the year 1848. Israel Swineford, about the year 1835, settled on the farm now owned by Elmer Hunter. Daniel Sylvus, about 1848, settled on the farm now owned by Silas R. Anderson. John Smith settled on the farm now owned by his son, John Wilson Smith. Samuel Findley, in the year 1857 settled on the farm now owned by Frank Barber. John S. Lucas, in 1848, settled on the farm now owned by Calvin Rodgers. Elijah Chitester about 1835 settled on the farm now owned by Isaiah Johns.

William Wyley came to what is now Knox township in April, 1834, with his family in a wagon drawn by oxen. They came from Westmoreland county, and there was no house between Squire Bell’s and their destination. They encamped for the night at Little Sandy, near where Cool Spring now is. The family consisted of Mr. Wyley, his wife and six children. Mrs. Mary H. Stewart, one of the daughters, remembers their coming perfectly, and says there were only five families in Knox when they came, Joseph Carr’s, Samuel McQuiston’s, George Gray’s, Elijah Clark’s and John Mathews’s. They had to stay in the woods two days without shelter, until the neighbors gathered together and put them up a log house. Mrs. Stewart says her mother, who was wearied with her long journey, spread a bed under a tree and lay down to rest, and soon fell asleep. The children, who had scattered about to play, descried the feet of a man, all they could see for the trees, approaching them through the woods, and running to their mother awakened her with the cry that a big Indian was coming to kill them all. When the intruder appeared they found he was Charles B. Clark who was hunting his cows. The first horse was brought into the township five years after the arrival of Wyley, by David Chitester, and Mrs. Stewart says her first lessons in horseback riding was taken on this old shaggy, black animal. It pastured near her father’s, and she and her brothers and sisters took turns in riding it, as many as could pile on its back riding at a time, one of the number being stationed to avoid a reprisal by the owner of the horse, or their parents.

Mr. Wyley sold his farm after some years and commenced improving the one now owned by his son, Huston Wyley, where he died in 1867. Mrs. Wyley died in 1871. They had thirteen children, only six of whom survive. Only three reside in Jefferson county, George P. and W. Huston in Knox, and Mary H., who in 1840 married Robert Stewart, has since resided in Brookville.

Elijah Clark was the fifth man to settle in Knox township. He was originally from Massachusetts, from whence he had emigrated to West Virginia, and then to Westmoreland county, from where he moved to this wilderness in 1833. On the arrival of his family at Brookville, they were piloted through the woods to the Carr and Gray settlement, as it was called by Mr. John Long. Mr. Clark settled on the farm now the property of the heirs of Samuel Johns. In 1847 he built the Iowa mills in Pine Creek township. He died of paralysis in 1850. A singular fatality attended the family in that year. The family of his son, Charles B. Clark, were attacked with typhoid fever, and his wife, née Jane Sloan, and daughter Julia died, while Mr. Clark himself was for months prostrated by the disease, and while death was thus busy in the Knox township home, Samuel K. Clark, another brother, who was down the river with lumber, died suddenly in Cincinnati of cholera.

The family all removed to Brookville in 1856. Of the family of Elijah Clark, only Martha A., wife of Enoch Hall, and Hannah J., wife of E.H. Darrah, both residing in Brookville, remain. Mrs. Charlotte Sloan died several years ago Mrs. Julia Darling died in 1880, and Charles B. Clark, January 3, 1883. Mr. C.B. Clark had resided in Brookville for about thirty years, and was one of its most worthy and respected citizens, earnest in everything that tended to the good of the town. He was for a number of years one of the overseers of the poor, and in him the unfortunate and needy ever found a friend. After the struggles and sorrows of his early life, he was able to enjoy his closing years in comfort and affluence. His second wife, née Eliza McCoy, and his two daughters, Misses Amelia and Margaret, reside in the homestead in Brookville. Samuel K. Clark left two sons, Ernest, a resident of Washington City, and Samuel K., a prominent lawyer of Clarion.

Reuben Hubbard settled on the farm now owned by Sylvester McAninch. Mr. Hubbard removed to Brookville, where he died.

Calvin Rodgers settled in Knox township in 1856. He was, for a number of years, connected with the firm of Bell & Rodgers, at Bell’s Mills. Mr. Rodgers is now a resident of Brookville, having purchased the residence of James Neal, on Jefferson street, in that place. He is largely engaged in lumbering on the Clarion River, where he owns mills at Arroyo, in Elk county.

The first school- house was built in 1830, and the first church at Knoxville, in 1850.

The first grave- yard was started on the McCann farm about 1828 or 1830, and the next on the farm of Lewis Mathews, now owned by James Cummings, in 1830.

Lumber and Saw- mills. - The fine timber for which Knox township was noted has nearly all been used up, some hemlock and hard woods alone remaining. The only mills in the township are the steam saw- mills and shingle- mill on Sandy Lick, of Arthur O’Donnell*, that of R.B. Stewart, formerly owned by Rietz & Spare, and William Wingert’s mill.

Farms. - Farming is now, since the decline in the lumber trade, the principal business of the citizen’s of Knox township, and some good farms are found, among the best cultivated, and with the best improvements, being those of R.B. Stewart, John Mathews, S.R. Anderson, S.A. Hunter, John Cummings, Samuel Yount, James Neal, and Calvin Rodgers.

Natural Gas. - Knoxboro township holds the first place in the county as a gas producing district. On the 5th day of July, 1887, a company commenced drilling a well for gas, on the farm of William Love, about three miles from Brookville. At a depth of seven hundred and twenty- five feet the first gas was struck; the second at nine hundred and twenty feet, and the third at ten hundred and forty feet. The well was drilled to a depth of twenty- three hundred and fifty- five feet; a second well was commenced one thousand feet east of well number 2, the latter part of September following, gas being found in the same strata. This well is now down about twelve hundred feet. The gas of well number 1 has been piped to Brookville, and will furnish gas for two

hundred fires. The officers of the company are Samuel Chambers, president; C.C. Benscoter, secretary; treasurer, M.B. Marlin; directors, Dr. T.C. Lawson, Dr. W.G. Bishop, J.N. Garrison, C.A. Carrier, A.B. McLain, E.A. Litch.


The pleasant little village of Knoxville, situated in Knox township, on the road leading from Brookville to Punxsutawney, was laid out by Michael E. Steiner, who came to Knox township in 1851, and purchased a farm where Knoxville now is. His father, Dr. D.J. Steiner, was the first physician in Knox township. When Mr. Steiner came to Knox, with his wife and two little children, it was almost all wilderness, and he laid out his little town in the woods, but he soon had the satisfaction of seeing quite a hamlet spring up about him. A post- office was established in 1863, but on account of. there already being one called Knoxville in the State, it was called Knoxdale, by which name the place. is generally known.

When Mr. Steiner came to what is now Knoxville, there were no churches in the township, and only one school- house - a small log- cabin - built of round logs, with split and hewed log benches. Now there are six churches in the township, three of which - Presbyterian, United Brethren, and Evangelical - are in Knoxville, and seven school- houses in the township, nearly all equipped with the most approved school furniture.

Knoxville has two stores, those of H.G. McCracken and Jacob Hopkins.

Its post- office, Knoxdale, is the only one in the township. In 1880 the population was one hundred and three.

Elections. - The first election, was held in Knox township in the year 1853. The following persons were elected:

Justices of the peace, N. McQuiston, S. Swineford; supervisors, Henry Rhodes, Andrew Hunter; auditors, Amos. S. Austin, Lewis Mathews; assessor, Samuel Davidson; overseers of the poor, M. E. Steiner, Israel Swineford; school directors, N. McQuiston, John H. Bish, Andrew Hunter, Patterson Hopkins, J.S. Lucas, George S. Mathews; judge of election, William Davidson; inspectors, Horace Harding, N. McQuiston; township clerk, Elijah Chitester.

At the election held February 15, 1887, the following persons were elected: Constable, Joseph Knabb; supervisors, J.F. Siverling, William Eckman; school directors, H.E. McCracken, John Reinert; collector, Joseph Knabb; poor overseer, A. Eshbaugh; auditor, H.D. Morrison; assessor, A. Eshbaugh.; clerk, A.G. Mercer; judge of election, John Matthews; inspectors, Israel Eshbaugh, J.D. Mercer.

The justices of the peace in Knox township are James G. Averill and M.E. Steiner, and the previously elected members of the school board are John Matthews, Jacob Shaffer, E.E. Hunter, and J.R. Sarvey.

Taxables, Population, Assessments, and School Statistics. - The number of taxables in Knox township in 1856 were 111; in 1863, 143; in 1870, 205; in 1880, 278; in 1886, 337.

The population, according to census, in 1860 was 637; in 1870, 863; in 1880, 1,011.

The triennial assessment of 1886 gives the number of acres of seated land in Knox township as 1,273; valuation, $50,052; average per acre, $4.00. Number of houses and lots, 50; valuation, $2,335. Number of grist and sawmills, 2; valuation, $750. Acres of unseated land, $5,567; valuation, $18,055; value per acre, $3.24. Number of horses, 206; valuation, $8,865; average value, $43.00. Number of cows, 262; valuation, $2,616; average value, $10.00. Number of occupations, 111; valuation, $3,110; average, $28.00. Total valuation subject to county tax, $85,783. Money at interest, $7,205.

The number of schools in Knox township for the year ending June7, 1886, were 7; length of term, 5 months; number of male teachers, 5; female teachers, 2; average salary of male teachers, $28.00; of female teachers, $26.50; number of male scholars,186; number of female scholars, 148; average attendance, 271; per cent of attendance, 81; cost per month, 82 cents; 13 mills were levied for school, and 5 for building purposes; total amount of tax levied, $1,233.96.

* The mill of Mr. O’Donnell was destroyed by fire in August, 1887, but is being re- built.

Source:  Page(s) 657-661, 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