History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1883-42

History of Butler County Pennsylvania - 1883

Chapter 42 -- Slippery Rock Township

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Transcribed by Melba Tomeo. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.





[p. 387]

Slippery Rock was one of the largest of the original Townships of Butler County, and though much reduced by the formation of other townships, it still remains territorially one of the largest townships in the county.

Settlements were made in this township as early as 1796, and in the year 1797 a considerable number from Westmoreland County and from the east was added to the small community. The name of the first settler is shrouded in oblivion. Indians still lingered about the creeks, where, for years their hunting grounds had been after the white man’s arrival. The old trail to Franklin crossed this township, and some evidences that white men had been here earlier than we have any actual knowledge of their movements have been discovered in this township. On the David CROSS farm some forty years ago, was found a copper kettle which had been buried in the earth, nobody knows how long ago. The stream (Wolf Creek) had wasted away its banks, and during the freshet the kettle was unearthed. Eli BECKWITH found an iron or steel implement--a combination of a knife and a fork--badly rusted by years of exposure. Some twenty years ago, while splitting a hickory log, he discovered an ounce ball snugly imbedded in the wood, with traces of bark around it as though the bullet had been shot into the tree, while the tree was yet a sapling. Eighty-seven rings of annual growth were over the bullet. It is most probable that the objects discovered date back to the time when the French explored this region.

A considerable portion of the land in this township was donation tracts, which at first were not open to settlement. The growth of the county from a wilderness to its present thrifty and populous condition was a slow and gradual process unmarked by any unusual features. The pioneers labored well and their toil bore fruit. When their sons grew to manhood and wanted a home, they generally settled upon a part of their fathers’ farms, and carried forward the work of clearing. Some settlers deserted their tracts or sold out their claims to such as wanted them, for a very trifling sum, and went elsewhere to seek their fortunes. In general, however, the settlers were permanent residents. They were also men of honesty and uprightness, hard-working and frugal in their habits. Their descendants partake of these same traits. Adam FUNK located on the farm now owned by J. J. BOVARD, at a very early date. In 1807, hav- [p. 388] ing disposed of his right to the place to Samuel CROSS, he vacated it. Samuel CROSS came from Adams County, moving his family and goods in two wagons and a carriage. These vehicles were among the first brought to the neighborhood. The family also brought a negro girl as a slave, but gave her her freedom when she became of age. In 1811-12, Samuel CROSS erected the brick house now owned by his grandson, Mr. BOVARD. The house is two stories, 30x45 feet, and substantially built. Besides being the first brick house in what is now Slippery Rock Township, it was for years almost the only brick building in this part of the county. In it CROSS kept tavern many years, and entertained many of the travelers who once made the old Franklin road their thoroughfare. His son, James, managed a distillery several years. Samuel CROSS died in 1841. His children were Thomas, David, John and William, by his first wife; and by his second, Samuel, Joseph, James, Alexander, Sarah (BOVARD), Jane (PERRY), Eliza (MILLER) and Sidney. Only one of them is now living--Mrs. PERRY, Venango County.

John SLEMMONS, from Adams County, was an early settler on a farm adjoining that of CROSS. Jonathan ADAMS, in the same neighborhood, was an early settler. One of his grandsons now owns the farms and keeps a hotel known as the ADAMS House.

James MCKEE, a native of Ireland, settled in Franklin County in 1787. In 1797, he and two brothers, John and Hugh, came to Western Pennsylvania and settled about two miles west of the present residence of David MCKEE. Soon after, they were joined by four sisters, and their parents, James and Jane MCKEE. These pioneers encountered difficulties and perils. They were frequently short of provision but as game was plenty, they had no fears of starvation. David MCKEE says that has heard old settlers tell of a man who was expert in hunting, who lived two weeks on Juneberries and milk. About 1800, James MCKEE married and settled on the farm where his son David lives. He died in 1847, aged seventy-seven. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace by Gov. WOLF, and held the office until the act making these officers elective was passed. He was also one of the early Commissioners of this county. He was the father of eleven children--Thomas, Nancy, James, Martha, John, Jane, Hugh, Letitia, David, Robert and Hiram. David has served as a member of the Legislature and in other responsible positions.

John and Jacob STILLWAGON, whose descendants still reside here, was an early settler south of Centerville. Abraham SNYDER, from Westmoreland County, lived a number of years on the MCGONIGLE farm, then moved to Mercer County. John MORTLAND and Alexander MCDONALD were early settlers in the eastern part of the township.

About the year 1800, Zebulon and Nathaniel COOPER, from Washington County, bought 500 acres of land on Wolf Creek, upon which they settled. Their brother, Stephen, came soon after, and discovering a vacant piece of land, made a settlement upon it. He located at the Big Spring, in Centerville, and was the first inhabitant of the land now included in the borough. Zebulon, who came here single, married Sarah BEAN in Washington County, and settled west of the creek. He died in 1864, aged eighty-six. His children’s names are Elizabeth (MCNEES), deceased; John (deceased); Mary (MCNEES), deceased; Rebecca, Anna, Zebulon, Sarah (ANDREWS), deceased; Jerusha (BIGHAM), Hannah (CAREY), deceased; and Sylvanus. Sylvanus resides on the homestead. The first log-house which Zebulon COOPER built is still standing, but no longer occupied. The barn built about 1810 is still in use and in good repair.

Nathaniel COOPER died on his farm. It is now occupied by G. W. FORSYTH, a native of Armstrong County, who settled in this county in 1872. Stephen COOPER’s family went to the West. Nathaniel’s children were Nathaniel, Polly (MCGOWEN), Stephen and William B. ALLARE, now dead. Nathaniel, the last survivor, died in 1880, at the age of eighty-six. The COOPERs underwent the usual difficulties of pioneers. At one time salt was $16 a barrel, and scarce at that price. It had to be brought over the mountains from the Eastern part of the State. Zebulon went to Pittsburgh and brought home, on horseback, the first kettle that he owned.

At the time the COOPERs came, Adam BARBER lived southwest of their tract, and David CROSS lived south of BARBER. A man named BURROWS and his son William lived south of the COOPER farm.

Phillip SNYDER came from Lancaster County, Penn., and about the year 1801, settled on the farm now owned by Hiram SNYDER. To pay his taxes, he had to resort to every method of economy which he could possibly practice. He made maple sugar and carried it to Butler to sell, thus earning a little money. In 1803, a son (Henry) was taken sick and died. There was then no physician nearer than Harmony, and the boy received no medical aid. Philip SNYDER died in 1857, aged eighty-three. He was twice married. His first wife, Sarah STEPHENSON, bore six children--Henry, John, Jane (PILLOW), Elizabeth (BARNES), Sarah (SMITH) and Philip, all of whom are dead except Mrs. BARNES. The children of his second wife, Deborah FANNEHILL, are all living: Nancy R (BRAHAM), Hiram, Jonathan, Eleanor (WRIGHT), Deborah (SHANOR), Hiram and Eliza P. (BROHAM) SNYDER are the parents of eleven children: three sons and three daughters have been [p. 389] school teachers and taught during the year 1881. One son, Samuel B., has recently been admitted to the bar of this county.

James MCKEE, father of the Hon. David MCKEE, of this township, built the first house on the Eli BECKWITH farm. Finding that he had located on lands belonging to the Pittsburgh Academy, he moved to the farm now occupied by his son. The Pittsburgh Academy, now known as the Western University, owned several four hundred-acre tracts in this township, which were gradually sold to settlers. Three of these tracts were in a body, commencing at the north of the township and running south as far as Centreville. Mrs. WEEKLY and her son William next occupied the farm, but were not able to pay for it. William HOGG then lived for a time upon the place. In 1819, Joel BECKWITH came and bought the farm from the Academy trustees, returning to his native State, Connecticut, for his family. They left Burlington, Conn., January 17, 1820, and four weeks and one day later arrived at their new home, having traveled the entire distance in a one-horse sleigh. Mr. BECKWITH and his sons, Alvah and Eli. Joel BECKWITH died on the farm in 1848. Alvah studied medicine, resided in Indiana and Ohio and died in Ashtabula, Ohio. Eli, who was in his seventeenth year when he came, is one of the few surviving early settlers. Since he came here he has resided in the county continually, excepting twelve years. He married Asenath BIGHAM, who is still living. They have reared three daughters and two sons, all of whom are living.

Henry WOOLFORD was among the first settlers. His son, Henry, who occupies the old farm, is now one of the oldest residents of the township.

John WALKER, of Irish descent, came to this county from Alleghany County, and settled west of Centreville in 1805. His sons were William, Samuel, James, John and Robert. Only the latter resided permanently in this county. John was cashier of a bank in Chillicothe, Ohio, where he died. Robert settled in 1816, where the borough of Harrisville now is. His sisters were Sarah (CARNAHAN), Elizabeth (BIGHAM), Jane, Mary (MARTIN) and Margaret (REED). All lived in this county but Mrs. CARNAHAN.

Thomas BIGHAM, of Scotch-Irish descent, came from Adams County on horseback in 1806, and purchased of the Pittsburgh Academy the farm on which his sons William now lives. After living alone two years, Mr. BIGHAM married Elizabeth WALKER. He was a soldier of 1812. He died in 1864, in the eighty-third year of his age. Names of his children: William, Ann Eliza, Sarah, Catharine (HODGE), Margaret J. (DAVIDSON), John, Asenath (BECKWITH) and Minerva (DAVIDSON). William and Mrs. BECKWITH are the only survivors.

The primitive denizens of the forest--the bears, wolves and panthers--did not desert their haunts until many years after the advent of the settlers. One evening Peggy WALKER was returning home just at dusk from her neighbor ARMSTRONG’s house, situated near Wolf Creek, riding horseback. When about one mile from home, she was startled by the terrific scream of a panther which sprang from the bushes close by the path. Her horse was frightened and ran; the panther followed, often coming close upon the horse and rider and occasionally making a leap at them. The horse was the swifter, however, and the savage animal was at length left behind. The girl reached her home in safety, though almost overcome with fright. It is related that a man was set upon by wolves near Wolf Creek at night, just as he was about to cross the stream. The wolves were on the opposite bank from him, to advance would be destruction, and to retreat, equally perilous. He therefore walked back and forth upon the log all night, with a stout club in his hands, keeping the wolves at bay. It was a long and terrible night for him. At dawn his foe retreated into the forest and he continued his way unmolested

The J. D. STEPHENSON farm was settled by James and Jane (MCMURRAY) STEPHENSON. James STEPHENSON came to this county from Ireland, in 1817, and first resided a year or two near Harrisville. He then moved to the above-mentioned farm, where he died in 1846, and his widow in 1872. William STEPHENSON, his father, came from Ireland with his son and lived with him. He worked at shoe-making and weaving, and his services were very useful to the settlers. Mr. STEPHENSON paid $3 per acre for his land, purchasing from James MCGILL. He erected a house of round logs, in which he lived until 1841, when he built a substantial stone house. He was the father of Margaret (WALKER), Jane (WALKER), John, William (first), William (second), Rachael (HOGG), Elizabeth (NEELEY), Isabel (MORRISON), James D. and Elijah L. Five are living--John, Rachael, Elizabeth, J. D. and E. L. William (first) drowned by falling in a spring when a small boy. The second William died in the army. J. D. STEPHENSON began the manufacture of pottery in 1866, which business he continues to conduct successfully, making from $1,000 to $1,500 worth annually.

Philip KIESTER, the pioneer of the southeastern part of the township, came here in 1822, when the entire neighborhood was a wilderness. Many excellent farms have been made from the primitive forest since that date. Mr. KIESTER was a Native of Westmoreland County. His wife was Margaret SHAFFER, whose father, Jacob, was an early settler in this county. Mr. KIESTER died in his eighty-third year, in 1863. His widow [p. 390] survived him eight years. Their children numbered ten, eight of whom reached mature years, viz.: Jesse, Jacob, Leah (CHRISTLEY), Sarah (CHRISTIE), John, Abraham, Paul and Mahala (CHRISTLEY). Sarah and Abraham are dead. Jesse and Jacob are among the oldest residents of this township. They recall the time when nearly all the settlers used sleds for hauling hay and grain, and remember distinctly a cart or wagon with wooden wheels (sawed from the end of a log) made by their father. Wooden plows, which invariably clogged up between the coulter and the point; pitchforks made by blacksmiths; broad Dutch scythes, sharpened by means of a hammer and anvil, were some of the farming implements in use in early days.

John and Michael CHRISTLEY, natives of Westmoreland County, and sons of George CHRISTLEY, an early settler of Mercer County, came to this township about 1822, and settled on an unimproved farm. John CHRISTLEY was a cabinet-maker, and carried on his trade in connection with his other business. Commencing about 1825, he was gate-keeper a number of years on the old Pittsburgh & Erie Turnpike. He also kept a public house known as the Half-Way House, it being situated about midway between Butler and Mercer. In 1841, he was tax collector, and the valuation of the township, which then included three times the territory now in Slippery Rock, was, according to his book, $108,450. Two hundred acres of land were taxed $4.

John CHRISTLEY died in 1872, in his seventy-fifth year. He married, first, Mary H. SMITH, and second, Elizabeth SMITH. His children were James P. (living), William G. and John (dead) by the first marriage. The children of his second marriage are Thomas F., Washington E., Mary J., Samuel J. (dead), Sarah E., Curtis I., Catharine F., Margaret C. and Caroline B., all living but Samuel.

Robert PATTERSON, who died during the war of 1812, came from Eastern Pennsylvania and settled near Sunbury about the beginning of the present century. James A., his son, came to Slippery Rock Township in 1825, and purchased a farm in company with Smith NEILL, but afterward bought NEILL’s share. J. A. PATTERSON died in 1870. His widow (nee Amy MITCHELL) is still living with her son Lewis, who is an extensive farmer. The children of J. A. and Amy PATTERSON are Norman, Lewis, Eli (deceased), Asa (deceased), and Sarah (PATTERSON).

Hon. Samuel KERR came from Maryland to Mercer County with his father, who was one of the early settlers in that county. When the Mt. Etna furnace was built, he came to this township and was manager of the furnace five or six years. He was elected State Senator from this county. He moved to New Castle and was appointed by Gov. PORTER as Superintendent of the canal. He also served as a member of the Legislature from Mercer County. He died at Brownsville, in 1873, aged eighty-three years. He was married in Mercer County to Mary MOORE, who bore eleven children, viz.: James, John, Jane (MCCONNELL), Mary (MCCLEARY), Martha (ALEXANDER), Sarah (POLLOCK), Samuel, Lafayette, Clinton, Lucinda (BARKER), and Caroline (BROWN). All are living except Lucinda and Lafayette. The latter died in the Mexican war James (Judge KERR) and Samuel reside in Harrisville, and Mrs. MCCONNELL in Slippery Rock Township.

William MILLER came from Ireland and settled in 1830, where his son William now lives. He located in the midst of the woods and lived many years in a small log cabin. Deer were so plenty that they had well-beaten paths around the house. William MILLER’s children were Ann (STEPHENSON), Mary (KIESTER), Jane (KIESTER), Eliza (KIESTER), William, James and George. The daughters are dead.

T. J. SHANNON, a native of Allegheny County, came from Columbiana County, Ohio, in 1840, and settled in Worth Township, whence he removed in 1847, to the farm he now occupies. This farm and others in the neighborhood, situated east of the Franklin road, were in Cherry Township until 1854.

John ORR was born in Ireland. He lived nine years in Pittsburgh, and in 1840 moved thence to his present farm. The children of John and Mary E. (WATT) ORR: Mary J. (WOODS), Sarah (BELL, deceased); James W., Nancy (HICKS), William H., John, Charles F. and Andrew P.

William CROCKER came to this township from Newcastle, in 1841, bought 100 acres north of Centreville, which he cleared and improved; he then disposed of it, and in 1857 settled upon the farm which he still occupies. Mr. CROCKER has a coal bank, producing about 12,000 bushels of coal per year.

Richard CRITCHLOW settled in this county in 1850, and in Slippery Rock Township in 1871. William RENICK, a native of Germany, settled in 1855, on the farm where he now resides. He had worked at blacksmithing for many years. His father was an early German settler in Jefferson Township.

Michael A. MCGRATH settled in this township in 1860. Hon. D. WADSWORTH came from Ireland at the age of eighteen; lived at Pittsburgh 1830-39, and at North Liberty, Mercer County, 1839-64. He was a member of the State Legislature in 1846, and in 1860 was Assistant United States Marshal and census enumerator. He settled in this township in 1864.

Thomas TAYLOR, a native of Ireland, and a shoemaker by trade, came from Philadelphia and settled in this township in 1851. He died the same year at the age of fifty-seven. His children were William, [p. 391] Ann, Robert, George and Mary Jane.

Centreville Station, in the northeastern part of this township, is an incipient village, containing a store, post office and a few houses. H. E. WICK is proprietor of a large store and lumber yard, and is doing a good business. A lime-kiln near the station is also in operation.


The following persons have been chosen as Justices of the Peace in this township, since 1840. For list of Justices prior to that time, see general history.

1840, Alexander MCBRIDE; 1840, James I. HOGE; 1845, James I. HOGE; 1845, Thomas MIFLIN; 1850, William MOORE; 1850, Thomas MIFLIN; 1854, Nathaniel COOPER; 1860, Jacob KIESTER; 1864, E.D. De WOLF; 1865, Jacob KIESTER; 1866, H. H. VINCENT; 1871, H. H. VINCENT; 1873, Jesse KIESTER; 1877, Dawson WADSWORTH; 1877, Jesse KIESTER; 1882, H. H. VINCENT; 1882, Jesse KIESTER.


On the last Saturday of June, 1843, in the southern part of Slippery Rock Township, was enacted a deed of brutal slaughter as fiendish and as savage as any embraced in the annals of Indian warfare. An Indian known as Mohawk, who had passed down the road to Butler from the upper lumbering county some days previous, came to the Stone House on the stage on Friday, late in the evening. In Butler he had been drinking and acting suspiciously. On his arrival at the hotel, without a knock or a warning, he passed up stairs into the room where the landlord, Mr. SILL, was sleeping. SILL ordered him out and picked up a club to hasten his departure. The Indian left, and it is supposed that he passed the night among the rocks near the Stone House, as he was seen going up the road early the next morning. He went directly to the house of James WIGTON, who was away from home, having gone to the house of his father, a mile distant, to get a horse to use in his farm work. Mrs. WIGTON and her five small children were alone in the home. Just what passed there no one was left to tell. Before the return of the husband, Lemuel DAVIS, who with his wife and son, had come to help WIGTON about his hoeing, entered the house and beheld a scene such as no pen can depict. Mrs. WIGTON was lying dead in a pool of blood. Evidently she had not yielded her own life and the lives of her children without a struggle. One of her hands was cut nearly off, as though a knife had been forcibly drawn through it. It is supposed that she tried to defend herself with a butcher knife which was found near by, stained with blood. Her babe in the cradle, was, at first, thought to be unharmed: but when it was taken up, the horrible discovery was made that its brains had been beaten out. Four children up stairs in the sleeping room were found--all dead, and their blood stained the floor, wall and ceiling. A stone which had been used in the fire-place of the wash-house, in place of an iron, was found covered with blood. This had been the instrument of death in the hands of the fiendish savage, and the heads of every victim bore marks of the blows inflicted by it.

Mr. DAVIS aroused the neighbors, and soon more than a hundred excited people, who had come from the Hickory Furnace and the neighboring farms, were at the scene of the murder. It was soon learned that the Indian had been at Joseph KENNEDY’s and had thrown a stone at young Joseph. Mohawk was hotly pursued and ran to Philip KIESTER’s house. There were no men about the place, and the women, who were already informed of the murder, hastened to leave the house. The Indian entered and ran up stairs. The pursuers rushed after him, and one of the number, Mr. BLAIR, was knocked down by a stone thrown by the savage. It is supposed that Mohawk had gathered up a pocketful of stones on his way to the house. The KIESTERs informed the pursuers that there was a loaded pistol in the room where the murderer had taken refuge, and a shot from it was momentarily expected; fortunately the Indian never discovered it. Next an attempt was made to get a dog up stairs, but to no purpose. Then several of the men, carrying a board over their heads, to keep off the missiles of Mohawk, made a rush up the stairway, seized the Indian, overpowered him and tied him with a bedcord. Then they led him to the house where the mangled bodies of his victims lay; he acknowledged his guilt, but said nobody could prove it.

The citizens were mostly in favor of lynching the savage at once. But William STEWART, a man of considerable influence, counseled otherwise and urged obedience to the law. The Indian was taken to Butler, tried in due course, and sentenced to death. He was hung in the spring of 1844.

After the arrest there was great excitement in all the northern part of the county, and even in other counties. People who were familiar with the Indian traits feared that the savage would somehow be able to escape from the jail. Previous to the trail, companies of armed men--one company from New Castle and several from the northern part of the county--gathered at Butler, with the intention of lynching Mohawk. Great excitement resulted. The companies rendezvoused at Jacob SCHLEPPEY’s tavern, and there they were met by a number of the most prominent men of Butler who argued and expostulated and finally restored peace and order. No whisky or ammunition was sold in Butler during the day. Some [p. 392] of the more violent advocates of mob-law even threatened to burn the town. Fortunately no evil resulted from the excitement occasioned by this "great popular uprising."


In 1822, Dr. John THOMPSON came from New Lisbon, Ohio, and purchased an extensive tract of land in this township, upon which he erected a stone stack and started a coldblast charcoal furnace for the manufacture of pig-iron. The first iron was made in 1823. Dr. THOMPSON also erected a forge for the manufacture of bar iron, made castings, built a saw-mill and grist-mill, and did an extensive business, employing many hands. In 1829, the property was sold at Sheriff’s sale for $7,500, which was less than one-fourth of its worth, and was purchased by one of the creditors, David MCJUNKIN, father Judge MCJUNKIN. THOMPSON afterward returned and paid every dollar of his indebtedness. MCJUNKIN ran the furnace successfully from five to seven years. It was then rented to Ephraim ROSE, John NEAR & Co. and Robert MCGOWAN, successively. It went out of blast about 1840. In 1835, William S. BINGHAM, now of Centerville, was one of the company operating the furnace. About fifteen tons of iron were produced weekly. Transportation to Pittsburgh cost $5 a ton.

In 1836, Joseph C. SWEARINGEN commenced building a furnace farther up the creek, which was known as the Hickory furnace. He owned 500 acres of land here and projected a large business. After a short experience, SWEARINGEN found himself ruined financially, and the property was sold by the Sheriff to C. C. SULLIVAN and William STEWART. They rented the furnace to William JACK, who did not make a success of the business. SULLIVAN & STEWART next took the management and made it pay well. In 1843, they erected the grist-mill now owned by John KIESTER. Robert ALLEN next ran the furnace a few years. It went out of blast in 1860. Good iron was made both at Hickory and Mt. Etna.


In early times, the schoolhouses were few and far apart, there being not more than two or three schoolhouses where there are now eight or ten. One of the first schoolhouses in the township was a rude log building, erected on the WOOLFORD farm. Among the early teachers were Squire COOPER, William PARKER and Adam DUNN. Among the first female teachers were Rachel COTTON and Miss BECKWITH, who taught in a log schoolhouse on Abraham SNYDER’s farm, about 1825. The free school system was established against much opposition.


A congregation of Covenanters or Reformed Presbyterians was organized in 1833, in the northern part of the township, and met for some years in a small log building which was also used as a schoolhouse. In 1836, the present house of worship was erected. The first Ruling Elder was Samuel HOGG, who continued the only Elder until 1834, when Samuel BRAHAM was elected. Among the members were the HOGG, BRAHAM, WICKLEY, SHIELDS, CURRY and MCELWAIN families.

The first pastor, Rev. Andrew W. BLACK, officiated until 1838. There was no pastor then until 1848, when Rev. Josiah HUTCHMAN was called and labored until 1852. The remaining pastors were Rev. David KENNEDY, 1852-1855, and Rev. J. F. HILL, 1858-66. In 1868, the church was re-organized by Rev. W. HUTCHISON, and having united with the New Hope congregation, became the Bethel United Presbyterian Church. Rev. W. D. EWING has been the pastor since 1870. In 1868, the membership was sixty-two. It is now 130. The first Sabbath school was organized in 1852.


Dr. John THOMPSON erected a grist-mill on slippery Rock, near his furnace, in 1822-23. The dam built by him is still standing. A new mill, standing where THOMPSON’s forge was, is owned by SHEPARD & DOUGHTERY. Hickory Mill, on the same stream, was built in 1843.

James VINCENT and his son Robert purchased 200 acres, including a mill site on Wolf Creek, and erected a grist-mill about 1832. A saw-mill farther up the stream had been built two years before. After the death of James VINCENT, his son William became the owner of the mill, and after it had been run by the VINCENTs for about thirty years, it was sold to William F. RUMBERGER. It has since been owned by Robert MCKNIGHT, James MCKNIGHT and J. H. CHRISTLEY. Mr. CHRISTLEY is the present owner. The first mill was burned a few years after it was built, and the one now standing was erected.

New Hope Woolen Factory, now one of the most important industries of the township, had its origin in the need of a carding-mill and cloth-fulling establishment experienced by the early settlers. In 1824, the citizens, having formed a stock company, erected a small log building and started a carding and fulling mill, with William SMITH in charge of the works. Stock* was held at $5 a share. In 1840, the stock-holders sold out to James CRISWELL, who put in addi- [p. 393] tional machinery and began the manufacture of cloth. Samuel CURRY was a partner with CRISWELL. About 1842, the original mill was burned and CRISWELL went out of the business. CURRY built more extensive works and ran the business about five years. He became involved, and the property was sold by the Sheriff. About the time CURRY was moving away, the mill was burned. The fire was doubtless the work of an incendiary.

*The mill-site was formerly a part of the farm of James MCKEE, who was a large stock-holder. The original dam was built for $100, and the embankment for $34.50, a part of the cost to be paid in trade. James MCKEE’s son and Samuel KELLY did the work. These particulars were furnished by Hon. David MCKEE.

William F. RUMBERGER next purchased the site and built the mill now standing, about the year 1847. RUMBERGER ran the works on a large scale, gave employment to many hands and conducted a paying business. The next owners (about 1854) were Edward FABER and John MCCARNES, who sold out, in 1864, to TOTTEN and CURRY brothers. TOTTEN withdrew after three years, and in 1870, Thomas and Joseph CURRY also withdrew. Mr. William CURRY, the present owner, has been sole proprietor of the factory since 1870. He is managing the factory on shrewd business principles, and the enterprise is paying him well.

Salt manufacture was attempted by John MCKEE and James GEORGE about 1845. The business was abandoned after a short trial, on account of gas in the salt well.


This town was founded by William HILL and Stephen COOPER. The first survey of lots on HILL’s farm was made in 1820; and a few years later, additional lots were laid off on the COOPER farm. The plat of the town was recorded in 1825. Stephen COOPER was the pioneer settler. His house stood in the southern part of the borough on the hill near the spring. The location was known as Ginger Hill, from the fact that COOPER kept tavern and gave plenty of ginger with the whisky that he sold. (Others have it that he sold ginger and gave away the whisky.) Stephen COOPER died here and his family removed. William HILL was the first settler excepting COOPER. He sold out, went away and embarked in mercantile and other pursuits, and died at Leesburg.

In 1823, Centerville contained four houses, all log buildings and all uncompleted. They were occupied by William HILL, John REYNOLDS, tavern keeper, William CROSS, who afterward kept tavern, and Isaac S. PEARSON, merchant. This is the statement of William B. BARD, the oldest resident of the town, who came here in the year mentioned.

Isaac S. PEARSON, the first merchant, was started in business by his uncle, John B. PEARSON, of New Castle. He began in a very modest way, and his trade, like that of other early merchants, was mainly by barter. Customers seldom paid money for anything--it was part of the merchant’s work to transform farm products, and even sheep and cattle, into cash. Mr. PEARSON succeeded well in business, and built the large brick house now occupied by William S. BINGHAM. He died here in 1844.

Simeon and Jesse BAKER came soon after the town was started, and purchased several lots. They moved away after a few years. There was considerable controversy as to what the new town should be called, the BAKERs and others taking a prominent part in the discussion. Finally a committee was chosen to select a name. One suggested "Muttontown," basing his preference for the name on the ground that he had just partaken of a dinner of very fine mutton, raised in the place. Another suggested Middletown, as the new village would be about half way between Butler and Mercer. The third expressed his preference for the name Centreville; and the question being voted upon, "Centreville" was unanimously adopted.

William CROSS was one of the most active and energetic of the early settlers. He worked at teaming, coal-mining, carried on tavern-keeping, etc. He built several houses in the town.

Samuel BARD, a tailor by trade, settled here prior to 1823. He worked at his trade several years, and afterward made chairs and windmills and had an interest in the foundry. He died in 1844. His children--Mary (BINGHAM), John T., William B., Dr. Benjamin F., Jackson and Robert M.--were all brought up in this town. John T. BARD carried on the mercantile business in this place nearly all the time, from 1850, until his death in 1879. In 1860, he established the store which is now conducted by his sons. In 1873, he established the Centreville Savings Bank, of which he was President until his death, when his son, J. E. succeeded him in the office. He held local offices, was Justice of the Peace, and served one term as Prothonotary of the county. Dr. B. F. BARD went to Iowa, enlisted in the army and died in the service. Mrs. BINGHAM, William B., Jackson and R. M. BARD, still continue residents of Centreville.

In the early days of stages, Centreville was very lively place, and business, especially with the tavern keepers, was flourishing. William CROSS kept tavern some years on the corner where WILSON’s dry goods store now is, then sold to Andy LEWIS. John SETH afterward was landlord on this corner many years. James BELL kept tavern where the CHRISTLEY House now is; and many others sold whisky at different times. Now, for several years, there has been no licensed house or saloon in Centreville.

Samuel CALDWELL, blacksmith, Amos FLEMING and John MCNULTY were among the settlers who came about 1825. Amos FLEMING and his brother William [p.394] afterward kept store where the post office now stands. William HILL kept store where Miss KELLEY’s millinery shop now is, for a few years, occupying a small log building.

Thomas FLOYD was the second merchant in the place. He kept store many years in the building erected by him--now the residence of Ezekiel WILSON, one of the old residents of the borough.

Peter SOWASH, blacksmith, settled at Centreville in 1826, coming from Westmoreland County. He worked at his trade until his death, and his sons, Henry and Fleming, continue the business.

Peter UBER, now one of the oldest residents of the town, located here in 1832, and has since worked at his trade of cabinet-making. He was engaged in keeping hotel for a time.

One of the first industries established in the town was the tannery of Scott STEPHENSON. It was afterward owned and operated by John HODGE, and in 1839, purchased by John COVERT. Samuel TAGGART next conducted the business and was succeeded by Perry Covert, the present owner. Another tannery was soon started after STEPHENSON’s by William FLEMING, and afterward operated many years by George CHRISTLEY.

The hotel, now known as the Eyth House, was built by John CROSS. The hotel was run by CROSS, F. W. COULTER, ____ HUMPHREY, George POTTS, Thomas STEPHENSON, Samuel SOWASH, successively, until 1850. Roman EYTH kept it from 1850 to 1856, and Martin EYTH until 1861, when he sold the property to William S. BOYD & Bro., from whom it was purchased in 1862 by Francis EYTH, present owner.

Samuel BARD and William S. BINGHAM established a foundry in 1838, on the east side of Main street. After Mr. BARD’s death, in 1844, the business was conducted by Mr. BINHGAM and R. M. BARD, until 1859, when Mr. BINGHAM bought Mr. BARD’s interest. The foundry now operated by BINGHAM & Son, was started by Isaac S. PEARSON, and purchased in 1848 by BINGHAM & Co. Messrs. BINGHAM & Son have done a large business, both here and in Harrisville, for many years, having a foundry in each place. They manufacture plows and deal in agricultural implements of all kinds.

Mr. William S. BINGHAM, who came to this place from Ohio in 1835, gives the following list of inhabitants of Centreville at that date, as he remembers them:

Commencing at the south end of Main street, on the west side and going northward: John EAGLE, chairmaker; Isaac S., PEARSON, merchant in the brick store; Samuel BARD, tailor; John TAGGART, laborer; MOORHEAD & WALLACE, merchants; G. W. COULTER, hotel keeper; Peter SOWASH, blacksmith; Peter UBER, cabinet-maker--still residing here; E. G. DeWOLF, M. D.; James FULTON, wagon-maker; Thomas FLOYD, merchant. On the street running west lived John CROSS, brick-maker.

Commencing at the north end of Main street and going south, on the east side, the inhabitants were Scott STEPHENSON, tanner; William PARSHALL, formerly a tavern keeper; John and Robert MCCOY, carpenters; Thomas STEPHENSON, hatter; George CHRISTLEY and William FLEMING, tanners; William RAMSEY, blacksmith; Joseph JUSTICE, hatter; William GIBSON, tinsmith; John SETH, tavern-keeper; John REYNOLDS, J. P.; Samuel KERR, then a Representative to the Legislature; Robert YOUNG, wheelwright; Alexander BUCHANAN, cabinet-maker; Stephen COOPER, farmer, and G. W. BRATTON, laborer. These were all of the residents of the town, probably with the exception of four or five families whose names are not recollected. The list should also include the names of James BELL, and John MCCLINTOCK, shoemaker; Samuel CURRAN, wagon-maker, settled here in 1835 and still remains.

There were four brick houses in the town in 1835, viz.: Peter SOWASH’s, MCCOY’s, the building now EYTH’s, and PEARSON’s. Among the frame buildings were Dr. DeWOLF’s residence and SETH’s tavern.

Daniel K. HILL, whose widow still resides in Centerville, settled here in 1843, and followed shoe-making.

John C. RAMSEY, afterward a Justice of the Peace and for several years a Methodist local preacher, came from Mercer County and settled here in 1844. He worked at shoe-making. Four of his sons--W. T., D. S., J. P. and J. W.--are residents of Centreville. Three sons, George W., Robert S. and John are dead. His daughters are Elizabeth E. (STILLWAGON, dead) and Mary J. (SCHULER). W. T. RAMSEY followed shoe-making a few years, but has been engaged in mercantile pursuits since 1856.

Charles PROSSER, Esq., Postmaster, came to Butler from Huntingdon County, in 1834; worked at his trade of tailoring in Butler until 1840, then removed to Centerville, and in 1847 to Bonnybrook, and thence to Butler, where he remained until 1866, when he again came to Centreville.

Elisha KINGSBURY, from New Hampshire, Mercer County, and in 1846 to Centreville, where he engaged in the mercantile business. He died in 1875. His son, C. O. KINGSBURY, Esq., continues the same business on the same spot, his store being now the longest established of any in the town.

T. S. COULTER, manufacturer and dealer in tinware, etc., has been engaged in business in this borough since 1865.

William H. STURDEVANT, proprietor of carriage shop and blacksmith shop, came to this place in 1866 and engaged in his present business.

[p. 395]

William KAUFMAN, blacksmith, began business, in Centreville in 1872.

J. M. MUNTZ came from Lawrence County in 1874. He manufactures saddles and harness, and deals in goods of Eastern manufacture. He also deals in furs and hides and has a livery stable.

C. W. BARD, dentist, is a native of Centreville, and began business in 1874.

Robert KISSICK, shoe-maker, has resided in Slippery Rock Township and Centreville borough twenty seven years.

J. S. WILSON, dealer in hardware and farm machinery, settled in Centreville in 1859. He was gauger and inspector of Crude petroleum in Oil City several years. In 1879, he began his present business.

C. W. COULTER, druggist, began business in 1879, succeeding J. S. FRENCH. Mr. COULTER had previously followed the same business in Butler seven years. He is a son of Dr. G. W. COULTER, whose history is elsewhere given.

Centreville Savings Bank was established in 1873 with the following directors: John T. BARD, W. O. BRACKENRIDGE, Milton HENRY and Norman PATTERSON.

J. H. PATTERSON was elected President and Austin T. BARD, Cashier. The present officers are, J. E. BARD, President; Directors--T. CHANDLER, T. W. GEORGE, Dr. Benjamin PEARSON and Rev. Samuel WILLIAMS. This bank is now about closing its business.

The citizens of Centerville show commendable enterprise in the matter of schools. Private schools have been sustained at regular intervals for several years. Some twenty-five years ago, the borough school was divided into two departments, and this arrangement continued until 1881, when a fine school building was erected at a cost of $4,000, and the schools divided into three grades. The schools are well managed and prosperous. John MORROW has been in charge of the higher department the last three years.

Centreville was incorporated as a borough in 1841. It now has about five hundred inhabitants, and the following business interests: One bank, two hotels, three liveries, three general stores, two groceries, two hardware stores, two drug stores, one foundry, one tannery, three blacksmith shops, two tailor shops, two carriage shops, one furniture store, one marble shop, two shoe-maker shops, two millinery shops, three harness shops, one tin shop, two physicians and one dentist. Five churches and the best school building in the county, outside of Butler, indicate the people’s interest in religious and educational matters.


1841, Charles PROSSER; 1841, Alexander BUCHANAN; 1846, Daniel K. HILL; 1846, George W. BRATTON; 1848, John C. RAMSEY; 1850, James D. RIDDELL; 1853, Alexander BUCHANAN; 1854, John H. KELLY; 1858, Alexander BUCHANAN; 1859, James P. CHRISTY; 1861, A. J. BARD; 1863, Alexander BUCHANAN; 1866, W. J. MCCARNES; 1866, A. J. BARD; 1869, William CRILL; 1871, A. J. BARD; 1873, David MCDONALD; 1875, A. J. BARD; 1876, A. J. BARD; 1878, T. S. COULTER; 1881, A. PROSSER; 1881, C. O. KINGSBURY; 1882, C. O. KINGSBURY.


Odd Fellows--Mulert Lodge, No. 435, I.O.O.F., Centreville, was instituted on the 10th of June, 1851, with a membership of some twenty-five or thirty. The lodge continued in a flourishing condition for about five years, when many of the leading members removed from the place; the remainder becoming dissatisfied, the charter was surrendered in November, 1856. On the 14th of April, 1875, the lodge was reorganized with seventeen charter members, since which time eighty-four have been admitted to membership by initiation and by card. The present membership is eighty. Since the re-organization, the sum of $548 has been paid for the relief of members and their families.

Workmen.--Slippery Rock Lodge, No. 108, A.O.U.W., was organized May 25, 1877, with twenty charter members. Ten members have since been admitted. The present membership is twenty-one, October 1, 1882.

Knights of Honor.--Friendship Lodge, No. 1188, K. of H., was instituted in August 1878, with twenty charter members. Membership in October, 1882, about twenty-five.


Methodist Episcopal.--The Methodist Episcopal Church of this place was raised in 1831. Among the early members of the small class composing it were, Scott STEPHENSON and John REYNOLDS and their wives; Mrs. HILGER, Mrs. John CHRISTLEY, Daniel K. HILL, class leader, Michael CHRISTLEY, George CHRISTLEY, Daniel NEYMAN, John C. RAMSEY and Campbell ROBB. Meetings were held for some years in an old schoolhouse at Centreville, and at the houses of Mr. STEPHENSON and other members. One of the first members was Rev. John SOMERVILLE. A small frame church was erected about 1837. In 1859, it was replaced by the present house of worship, which cost about $3,000.

The church has a membership of eighty-one. It belongs to the Centreville Circuit, which includes West Liberty and St. John.

United Presbyterian.--The United Presbyterian Church of Centreville was organized in September, 1848, as an Associate Reformed Church, by Rev. William [p. 396] FINDLEY, D. D. with fifteen members. The first Elders were John HAYS--still a member of the church--John BALPH and James BOVARD. The pastors have been Rev. W. T. MCADAM, 1852-54; Rev. Robert MCWATTY, 1855-59; Rev. A. R. RANKIN, two years; Rev. S. C. REED, two years; Rev. W. D. EWING, the present pastor, was installed in 1870. The membership, October, 1882, was about one hundred and thirty-five. A house of worship erected in 1852, was used until 1882, when a large and costly edifice was erected at a cost of about $4,000.

Presbyterian.--The Centreville Presbyterian Church was organized April 24, 1854, by a committee appointed by the Presbytery, and consisting of Revs. John MUNSON, Mead SATTERFIELD and R. B. WALKER. Twenty-nine names appear on the first roll of members. William B. COOPER, Nathaniel COOPER and Thomas MIFFLIN were the first Elders. This church was served by supplies until the 14th of April 1857, when Rev. S. WILLIAMS was installed pastor. He preached here regularly one-half his time, until 1869. During that period, 209 members were added to the church. The remaining pastors who have served here are as follows: Rev. D. C. COOPER, 1870-75; Rev. James A. MENARD, 1875-81; Rev. James A. WRIGHT, 1882, now in charge. The congregation at present numbers about two hundred. A large and flourishing Sabbath school is maintained.

Associate Church.--A congregation of the Associate Church, better known as Seceders, was organized at West Liberty in 1859, and continued to worship there until 1878, when the place of meeting was changed to Centreville, and a house of worship erected at a cost of $1,600. No church was erected at West Liberty. The pastors were all supplied until Rev. S. RAMSEY, the present pastor, was installed, about ten years ago. There are now about thirty members belonging to this congregation.

Reformed Presbyterian.--The Covenanters, or Reformed Presbyterians, had an organization in the Southern part of the township, and erected a church about twenty-five years ago. It was known as the Ryefield Church. In 1874, a house of worship was erected at Centreville. The congregation was then a branch of the New Castle Church. The present organization was formed by Rev. S. J. CROW, in 1879. Rev. J. R. WILEY is now pastor. The church numbers about forty.

[End of Chapter 42--Slippery Rock Township: History of Butler County, Pennsylvania. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Waterman, Watkins, & Co., Chicago, 1883.]

Chapter 41--Concord Township
Chapter 43--Mercer Township
1883 Butler County History Contents
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Edited 09 Mar 2000, 17:32