Chapter LVI
History of McCalmont Township 

This township, the twenty- fifth in line, was organized in 1857, and was taken from Young. It was named for Hon. John S. McCalmont, the president judge of’ the district. McCalmont is bounded on the north by Winslow and Knox, on the east by Winslow and Henderson, on the south by Bell and Young, and on the west by Knox and Oliver.

Topography. - The surface is generally high, ranging at the highest part between 1,800 and, 1,900 feet above the .ocean level. The township lines, indeed, include a central water- shed, upon which some of the principal streams in the county take their rise. Little Sandy heads here, so does Big Run and Elk Run, flowing southward into the Mahoning; in the northern part of the township the waters flow northward into Sandy Lick. Being thus near their starting place the streams are all small, but the valleys which they occupy are in many cases several hundred feet in depth, and present in this respect a striking contrast to the size of the streams.

Geology. - As in Young, Winslow, and the other townships adjacent to it, the main coal bed is the Freeport lower, which is found from five to seven feet in thickness, of excellent, bright, clean coal. The principal coal tracts in McCalmont are owned by John Straithoof, Daniel North, Joseph North, J.K. North, Jacob Smith, John G. Ernst and H.G. Wingart. These coal fields have only recently began to attract attention, and some extensive sales have been made.

The First Settlers. - The first settlers in what is now McCalmont township were Samuel McGhee, Ellis Evans, David and Thomas Carr, Abe Craff, William Best, John Deemer, Philip Bush, and John Smith. They came from Westmoreland and Centre counties about 1830. John Deemer, Carr and Best cleared the first land and made the first improvements. None of these early pioneers are now living, but their descendants are among the best citizens in the township. The next to make homes for themselves in the wilderness were Joseph and Daniel North, Frederick Ackerman, Robert M. Shirley, Godfrey Zimmerman, and Alexander Smith. Some of these are yet living and enjoying the fruits of those years of toil. Among these, Mr. Alexander Smith is now eighty- six years of age, and is the oldest citizen in the township.

The first persons born in McCalmont were Alexander Deemer and Eli Best; the first married was Joseph North, or Jonas Pifer; and the first deaths were Sprankle Smith and Mrs. Jacob Shatterly.

J.P. North taught the first term of school in the township in 1840 or 1841; the first school- house was built on the Smith farm, and the first church in 1871 at Panic; the first saw- mill was built on Big Run, by William Best, in 1830; the first store was started in 1882 at Panic, by George Morrison; there has never been any hotels or grist- mills in the township; the first lumber was. taken out by John Smith and rafted on Sandy Lick, and the first coal was discovered on the farm of Lewis Elbel.

Like all the pioneer settlers in the wilderness of Jefferson county, those of McCalmont had to exercise the utmost vigilance against the wild animals, which were so plentiful. On one occasion John Deemer went out to watch the bears off his wheat, and while hidden in a "shock" a large bear came and went to eating the wheat of which his hiding- place was composed. He was asked afterwards why he did not shoot the bear, to which he replied, "Dod! it was too close."

Mr. Daniel North, in the forties, was harrowing in one of his fields, and broke his harrow. He got his ax to repair it, and while at work, he heard his hogs squealing, and on going to see what was the matter, found a large bear trying to carry off one of his hogs. It would pick up the hog, walk a short distance on his hind feet, and then throw it as far as it could. Mr. North ran up and struck the bear with the axe, intending to fell him, but the weapon glanced, and bruin letting the hog go, turned on Mr. North, and chattered his teeth almost in his face. Mr. North took off his hat threw it in the bear’s face, and then ensued an exciting foot- race, Mr. North kicking bruin at almost every jump. He almost succeeded in treeing the animal, but in running through the brush the bear had the advantage and so escaped. Mr. North considered it almost miraculous that the bear did not hug him to death.

Mr. Jenks, of Punxsutawney, early in the fifties, started with a crew of ten or twelve men from Punxsutawney, and made a road to New Knoxdale, and another road back to Punxsutawney, completing the work in one day.

There are now two churches in McCalmont, the Cumberland and United Brethren, and a cemetery at Zion Church, started in 1871, also one at Mr. Tabor Rhoad’s, and Brown’s.

Lumber and Saw- mills. - There is still some of the fine timber for which this region was so famed yet remaining in McCalmont, though it will soon succumb to the axe of the lumberman. The saw- mills in the township are those of William Best, George Noer, H.K. North, Lattimer Brothers, Smith & Trusell, and I.C. Jordan. These mills cut from 20,000 to 25,000 feet per day. The principal lumbermen are J.G. Ernst, I.C. Jordan & Son, and Jacob Kuntz.

Stores, etc. - There are two store in McCalmont, that of James B. North at Panic, and C. Ditchburn at Sprucedale; and the shops of Gustave Hilbeg, blacksmith, and H.C. Snell, carpenter.

Farms. - Some of the best farms in the county are found in McCalmont, among which the best cultivated and improved are those of Joseph North, Daniel North, John Straithoof, Jacob Straithoof, John Bell, James McGhee, George Knoerr, Jacob Kuntz, Godfrey Zimmerman, Jacob Zimmerman, H.G. Wingart and Charles Muth.

Fine graded stock is found on the farms of Daniel North, Jacob Kuntz, W.E. Pifer, and George M. Noer. Excellent fruit is found on almost all the farms, such as apples, peaches, pears, mulberries, quinces, and all the small fruits.

Elections. - The first election was held in McCalmont township in 1857, with the following result: Justices of the peace, Joseph P. North, Daniel B. Straighthoof; constable, Isaac W. Magee; supervisors, James W. Bell, J.F. Pifer; auditors, Joseph P. North, Joseph A. Jordan,, George Rhodes; town clerk, John McBrier; judge of election, J.P. North; inspectors, Thomas Hopkins, George Rhodes; school directors, Daniel North, John Smith, Samuel Rhodes, John Rhodes, John McBrier, Samuel Swisher; assessor, James McGee; overseers of the poor, Thomas Hopkins, John Uplinger.

The election held February 15, 1887, resulted in the election of the following persons: Justice of the peace, G.A. Morrison; constable, William Pifer; supervisors, G. Zimmerman and Jacob West; auditor, J.W. Bell; assessor, J.G. Ernst; school directors, P. Smith and John Bell; poor overseer, Thomas Brown; clerk, Gust. Helbeck; collector, William T. Pifer; judge of election, Amos Kuntz; inspectors, Lot North and Henry Loring. The members of the school board previously elected are Barney Keegan, H. Zimmerman, P.C. Muth and James B. North.

Taxables, Population, Assessments, and School Statistics. - The number of taxables in McCalmont township, in 1863, were 88; in 1870, 126; in 1880, 160; in 1886, 216. The population, according to the census of 1860, was 454; 1870, 483; 1880, 549.

The triennial assessment of McCalmont township for 1886 gives the number of acres of seated land as 9,421; valuation, $34,606; average per acre, $3.67. One house and lot, $100; eight grist and saw- mills, valuation, $2,175. Unseated lands, 4,119; valuation, $21,216; average per acre, $5.00. Acres of surface, 1,640; valuation, $3,590; average per acre, $2.16. Acres of mineral, 2,958; valuation, $12,239; average per acre, $4.17. Number of horses, 154; valuation, $4,300; average value, $21.33. Number of cows, 191; valuation, $1,538; average value, $8.10. Number of occupations, 57; valuation, $1,525; average value, $26.70. Total valuation, subject to county tax, $81,289. Money at interest, $51,446.

The number of schools in McCalmont township for the year ending June 7, 1886, were 5; length of term, 5 months; number of teachers, 5; average salary, $30; number of male scholars, 105; female scholars, 87; average attendance, 143; per cent of attendance, 86; cost per month, 78 cents. Eleven mills were levied for school purposes. Total amount of tax levied, $699.77.

Source:  Page(s) 664-667, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

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