Chapter LVII
History of Henderson township 

Henderson, the twenty- sixth, and the last in the list of townships, was organized in 1857. It was taken from Gaskill and named for Hon. Joseph Henderson, then one of the associate judges of the county. This township, south of Winslow and north of Gaskill township, adjoins Clearfield county on the east, with McCalmont and Bell on the west. The surface is mainly upland, smooth, fertile and well watered. The valleys, with the exception of the Mahoning, extending along the southern border, are shallow and have gentle slopes. The drainage water flows south into Mahoning Creek. Stump Creek occupies the eastern, and Big Run the western portions of the township. The northern part is crossed by a narrow divide, which separates the waters of the Mahoning from those of Sandy Lick.

Geology. - There is no coal of any consequence found in Henderson, the only rock of much economic value being limestone, which is found in several localities and yields good stone. It is over three feet in thickness wherever it has been quarried.

A few years ago a well was put down for oil on Stump Creek, near Kramer’s mill, and for a time was the leading sensation of the day. Some oil was undoubtedly found, but not enough to justify further investigation in that locality, as after reaching a depth of almost 1,700 feet the tools were withdrawn and the well abandoned.

Early Settlement. - The first settlers in Henderson township appear to have been two Englishmen named Potter and Saulsbury; the latter cleared the first land, and made the first improvements.

In the year 1829 John Pifer and Frederick Kuhnly came from Westmoreland county and settled in what is now known as the. Paradise Settlement. This name is said to have been given to this region by one of the Longs, Michael or William, who on his first hunting excursion into this wilderness was so impressed with the scene that met his vision, the luxuriance and beauty of the flowers that carpeted the sward at his feet, or glowed from every thicket, the bright and varying green foliage of the trees, the cool, limpid springs that sprang from moss environed depths, the sweet songs of the myriads of bright plumaged and sweet throated birds that filled the woods with their melody, that in awe struck wonder and admiration at the loveliness he beheld he involuntarily associated, it with the land of the blest and called it "Paradise," a name that through all these years that have elapsed since his eyes first beheld it, it has retained Mr. Pifer and Mr. Kuhnly took up government lands at from fifty cents to one dollar per acre, and in May of that year the former, with his two sons, John and Jonas, took possession of this purchase and erected a small log cabin and made other improvements preparatory to bringing the rest of his family, who came on the 6th of December, 1829. Mr. Kuhnly had brought his family with him in May, before any preparation was made for them.

Bears, deer and wild turkey were plenty, and furnished them food, and bruin often came into their clearings and tried to procure his supper by carrying off a fat hog or two, while wolves howled about the cabins at night. The winter was a very severe one and Mr. Pifer had to go fifteen miles to procure straw. He obtained his supplies at Punxsutawney, to which place he would go with an ox team and "jumper." The only improvements at Big Run at that time was a saw- mill, and there were no improvements in the neighborhood of where Reynoldsville now is except a little log cabin that stood near Sandy. All around appeared to be a swamp, and there was no indications that a thriving town would ever be located there.

The presence of neighbors across the Clearfield county line, about a half a mile away, was made known to Mr. Pifer by his hearing their chickens heralding the approach of sunrise. He made his way to the place from which the crowing proceeded, and there found a cabin, and a cordial welcome from its inmates, who had been equally ignorant of his presence in the neighborhood.

A preacher named Althause resided in, or near Punxsutawney, who occasionally preached in Luthersburg, making the journey on foot, and always carrying his gun with him for protection from wild animals. When more settlers came into the neighborhood he was invited to call and preach for them, the log cabin being the meeting- house. We do not know whether this is the preacher of whom it is related that on one occasion when he was in the midst of his sermon in a pioneer cabin in the southern part of the county, from the open door of the cabin a large, fine deer was seen. The men all had their guns with them, as was the custom in those days, and with one accord sprang to their feet, and grasping their guns, rushed after the deer. The astonished divine who was thus interrupted in the midst of his sermon, exclaimed, "Oh! it is too bad," when an old German, who, alone, with the women of the congregation,, remained, thinking that the preacher feared that the deer would get away, replied, "Oh! by shure you need be not afraid dey’l git him, de boy’s dey git him!"

The children of those first pioneer farmers yet live in Henderson township, and are now able to live in comfort and luxury on their beautiful farms; but to gain this end they had to undergo trials and make sacrifices that would appall the heart of the youth of the present day.

The first church was built in the Paradise Settlement in 1840, and the first school- house in the same locality in 1845. The first saw- mill was built by Daniel Graffius, Sr., on Big Mahoning Creek in 1835. The first lumber was taken out in 1838, and coal discovered in 1840. The first store wits started in 1840 by David Kerr, Sr. The first hotel was kept by James U. Gillespie in 1850. The first grist- mill was built by Philip Enterline in 1867, and the first manufactory (furniture) was started in 1867 by D.J. Smyers. The latter are all located in the present limits of Big Run.

Present Business, etc. - The lumber trade has been the principal employment and source of revenue of this region amounting yearly to, about $300,000. The principal mills of D.J. and G.S. Smyers, Big Run Lumber Company, and Krider & Son, on Big Mahoning, aggregate a daily capacity of 100,000 feet. Besides the mills above noted is the steam saw- mill of Jacob Zufall built about 1883, and the water- mills of James London and Adam Knarr, each cutting about 15,000 feet daily. There are three school- houses and six churches in Henderson and one post- office, Clouser, located near George Kramer’s.

Farming - Henderson is one of the best farming sections of the county and. considerable attention is paid to raising graded improved stock, Holstein and Jersey cattle being the specialties. The fruit also is good, apples, pears, grapes, peaches, plums, being grown of the best varieties. Among ‘the best cultivated farms and those with the best improvements are those of Charles Miller, George Sprague, George Kramer, Robert London, Peter Weaver, John J. Milliron, David, Jonas, Isaac and B.F. Pifer, Jacob Rudolph, Jacob, Isaiah, George and Abraham Zufall, Jesse and Henry Beams, Adam Knarr, George Tyson, K.A.M. McClure, who owns 25,000 acres of land in the township, has several good farms.

Elections. - The first election was held in Henderson township in 1857, with the following result: Justice of the peace, James U. Gillispie; constable, Thomas Pifer; supervisors, Daniel Smyers, Henry Lott; auditor, J.U. Gillespie; judge of election, George Pifer; inspectors, Abraham Davis, Henry Miller; assessor, Henry Clark; school directors, Samuel Smith, George Snell, John T. Clark, Jacob Smith, Christian Hoover; overseers, William Brooks, David Haney, Abraham Milliron.

At the election held February 15, 1887, the following persons were elected: Constable, Joseph Hoffman; collector, Joseph Hoffman; assessor, A. Jordan; supervisors, Frederick Lott. Frederick Buchcite; justice of the peace, Henry Henaman; auditor, Frederick Hoffman; school directors, Andrew Pifer and August Webber; judge of election, A. Miller; inspectors, Charles Miller and H.F. Freithhert; treasurer, R. B. London.

The other justice of the peace is Frederick Lott, and the other members of the school board of Henderson township are William Null, P.W. Kuntz, M.A. Weaver, and J.G. Rudolph.

Taxation and Population. - The number of taxables in Henderson township in 1863 were 146; in 1870, 187; in 1880, 218; in 1886, 291. The population in 186o,was 627; 1870, 884; 1880, 872.

Assessments and Valuation. - The triennial assessment gives the number of acres of seated land in Henderson township as 12,172; valuation, $50,003; average value per acre, $4.20. Grist and saw- mills, 6; valuation, $1,500. Number of acres unseated, 1,318; valuation, $4,436; average per acre, $3.36. Number of horses, 195; valuation, $4,900; average value, $25.12. Number of cows, 291 valuation, $2,694; average value, $9.25. Number of occupations, 76; valuation, $2,405; average value, $31.64; Total valuation subject to county tax, $65,938. Money at interest, $26,641.

School Statistics. - The number of schools in Henderson township for the year ending June 7, 1886, were 5; length of term, 5 months; number of male teachers, 3; female teachers, 2; average salary of teachers, $27.00; number of male scholars, 151; female scholars, 117; average attendance, 220; per cent of attendance, 85; cost per month, 89 cents; 9 mills were levied for school purposes. Total amount of tax levied, $700.


Big. Run was where the first settlement was made in Henderson township in 1822, and was for a long time the only post- office in that region of country.

It derives its name from, the stream called Big Run, which here empties into the Mahoning. It has always been the centre of the lumbering trade for all that section of country, and since the building of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh railroad, upon which it is situated, it is becoming a town of importance. The first settlers and the first business enterprises of the town have been given in the foregoing history of Henderson township. Big Run was incorporated a borough in September, 1867.

Stores. - George K. Tyson, general store, established about 1877; Dr. A.P. Cox, general store and drugs, started about same time; A.M. McClure, general store, started in 1867, burned down in 1870, and rebuilt and opened in 1880; Dr. C.A. Wilson, drug store, started about 1882; J.B. Ellis, general store; started in May, 1883; Pittsburgh Branch Store, F. Sithons, manager, opened about 1884; W.E. & S. Enterline, Mrs. Buss, Miss Enterline, J.U. Gillespie. J.F. Oswald, hardware; opened in 1884. E.G. Gray, grocery; started in 1882. W.S. Canton, grocery and eating house.

Manufactories and Shops. - David McKee, shoemaker; started about 1882. James A. Hamilton, tannery and harness shop; started in 1883. P. Palmer, wagon maker and blacksmith; commenced in 1874. S.H. Gray, blacksmith; in 1882. Handle and ax factory, started by T. H. Simon in 1887.

Mills. - The largest saw- mill in Big Run was erected by a man named Farnsworth, in 1840. It was then owned by David Barclay, and then, in 1865, by William M. Cochran; since 1866 by A.M. McClure. It has been operated by the Big Run Lumber Company since 1885. Saw- mill put up by Putney Brothers in 1882, now owned by T.B. Krider. Planing- mill of Q.S. Reems, built by David Pifer in 1869. Planing- mill and furniture factory, owned by D.J. Smyers & Son. Gristmill, built by Philip Enterline in 1870; since his death, in 1885, owned by his sons, S. and W.E. Enterline.

Hotel McClure. - There is a large, well- fitted hotel at Big Run, built in 1886 by A.M. McClure. It is under the management of G.W. Schwem.

The office of the deputy- collector of internal revenue for the district, D.C. Gillespie, is located at, Big Run.

Elections. - The first election in Big Run after it was incorporated as a borough was held on September 30, 1867 at which the following persons were elected: Justices of the peace, George K. Tyson, John E. Gillespie, constable, Charles Sloppy; auditors, David Kerr, D.L. Smyers, William M. Cochran; judge of election, Samuel Yohe; inspectors, A.B. Stoner, Thomas D. Kerr; assessors, George K. Tyson; assistant assessors, Joseph McPherson, J.A. Hamilton; school directors, D.C. Gillespie, George K. Tyson, John Miller, J.A. Hamilton, Joseph McPherson, Samuel Yohe; overseers of the poor, J.A. Hamilton, George K. Tyson; town council, D.C. Gillespie, Joseph Moorhead, David W. Kerr, William M. Hollowell, Samuel Sloppy.

The election held February 15, 1887 resulted in the election of the following persons: Burgess, Q.S. Reames; council, Daniel Billmire, and W.B. McPherson and D.D. Neff tie vote; constable, W.P. Stumpf; high constable, Frederick Simons; school directors, A.M. McClure and D.J. Symers and Phillip Palmer tie vote; assessor, George C. Gillespie; auditor, Edward Seiphert; collector, W.H. Tyson; poor overseer, J.F. Oswald; treasurer, R.A. Hamilton; judge of election, John Kuntz; inspectors, John Neff and William Billmire.

The justices of the peace for Big Run are J.A. Hamilton and G.K. Tyson, and the other members of the school board are G.K. Tyson, J.A. Hamilton, C.A. Wilson and G.H. Simons.

Taxables and Population. - The number of taxables in Big Run in 1870 were 71; in 1880, 78; in 1886, 148.

The population according to the census of 1870 was 206; 1880, 240.

Assessment and Valuations. - The triennial assessment for 1886 gives the number of acres of seated land in Big Run as 222. Valuation, $2,971; average per acre, $13.38. Number of houses and lots, 177; valuation; $21,639. Grist and saw- mills, two; valuation $100. Number of horses, 24; valuation, $545; average value, $22.70. Number of cows, 53; valuation, $494; average value, $9.32. Occupations, 104; valuation $3,545; average, $33.12. Total valuation subject to county tax, $31,094. Money at interest, $4,031.

School Statistics. - The number of schools in Big Run for the year ending June 7, one, female teachers one. Salary of male teacher $40, female teacher $25. Number of male scholars 70, number of female scholars, 55. Average attendance 96, per cent of attendee, 91, cost per month, 60 cents. Thirteen mills each for school and building were levied. Total amount of tax levied for school and building purposes, $706.50.

Source:  Page(s) 667-672, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

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