History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1895x52

History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1895

Centre Township, Chapter 52

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Transcribed by: Lexie Gallagher For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.
Link to a sketch of Centre Township from the Atlas of Butler County, G.M. Hopkins & Co., 1874.

Surnames in this chapter are:




[p. 580]

Centre township derives its name form the fact that it occupies the geographical center of the county. It is one of the thirteen townships erected in 1804, and then embraced an area eight miles square. In 1854 it was reduced to its present size. It is one of the leading agricultural townships of the county, producing bountiful crops of cereals, vegetables, fruits and tame grasses. The most elevated point, 1,400 feet, is about 5,000 feet north of its south line on the Butler and Unionville road. The old coal banks, on the Daniel HECK and Eli EAGAL farms,-opened in the fifties,-produce a hard, lustrous coal, which may [p. 581] yield sixty per cent of coke, as was learned when the coke was manufactured from culled lumps for the Prospect foundry. The banks of the BIRCH and LEIBOLD farms, on Kearns branch; the deposit on the HULING's farm, and the cannel, on the MCCANDLESS farm, near the Butler and West Sunbury road, where an oil well was drilled in 1875, were all producers of excellent coal. As an oil field it has rewarded the enterprise of the driller poorly; but in the fall of 1893 it acknowledged his perseverance by showing some heavy gassers. The well on the Alexander BREWSTER farm, drilled by BROWN Brothers & Company, and finished in October, 1893; showed a gas pressure of 600 pounds, blowing the tools from the hole and otherwise giving proof of its power.

The population in 1810,was 742; in 1820, 972; in 1830, 1,322; in 1840, 1,834; in 1850, after division, 1,495; in 1860, within present boundaries, 829; in 1870, 843; in 1880, 980, and in 1890 1,005. The assessed valuation was $374,026, on which a county tax of $1,096.10 and a State tax of $64.12 were levied.


The story of the settlement of this township is interesting from the fact that its pioneers came in a body to take possession of the land without the aid of constitution or by-laws. In 1796 sixty men from Allegheny, Westmoreland, Juniata and Cumberland counties appeared in this part of the wilderness and selected sixty eligible farms and sites for cabins. To each a name was given, such as "Eden," "Hickory," "Hermitage," "Glenn," "Partnership Farm," "Thorn Tent," etc. Then the cabins were erected, one on each farm, and next the drama of the lottery was enacted. A slip of paper bearing the name of each farm was placed in a hat, while a list of sixty names was handed to one of the colonists. When the first slip was taken from the hat and the name of the farm proclaimed, it was credited to the first name on the list, and so on until all the farms were distributed. As the tract was then unsurveyed, it was agreed that after the survey, should two persons be found to be occupying the same 400 acres, the neighbor on the north should relinquish his claim and take the next unsettled tract of 400 acres to the north. This plan worked admirably, and within the year the following named tract owners were actual residents:

Henry BAUMGARTNER, 400 acres; John BYERS, 400; Samuel COOK, 300; Isaac CURRY, 400; William ELLIOTT, 300; Christian FLEEGER, 300; William FREEMAN, 400; Archibald FRYER, no land taxed; John GALBRAITH, 300; James HOGE, 150; George MCCANDLESS, 400; James MCCANDLESS, 400; John MCCANDLESS, 400; Robert MCCANDLESS, no land taxed; Thomas MCCLEARY, 200; Joseph MCGREW and Daniel MCKISSICK, no lands taxed; Aaron MOORE and sons, Alexander and Robert MOORE, no lands taxed; David MCJUNKIN, 400; William MCJUNKIN, 400; Adam RUDEBAUGH, 400; Jacob RUDEBAUGH, no lands taxed; John SCOTT and Robert SCOTT, no lands taxed; Archibald St. CLAIR, 400; Anthony THOMPSON, 400; James THOMPSON, no lands taxed; Moses THOMPSON, 400; John THOMPSON, 400, and James and Matthew THOMPSON, no lands taxed. The men named located in this township, while James, George and William MOORE, Lewis WILSON, Henry MONTOOTH, Eliakim ANDERSON and Charles SULLIVAN, who formed part of the company of sixty colonists, located in what is now Franklin township. [p. 582] John and Samuel CUNNINGHAM, also members, settled where now stands Butler, and made their homes there. A number of the other colonists sought homes in different parts of the county, but more than one of them returned to the original location of the party in Centre township. The Indians threatened the settlement in 1797, the scare driving away the pioneers, nine or ten of whom never returned.

The MCJUNKIN and MCCANDLESS families had, from the beginning of the settlement in 1796, a good representation here. David, born in Ireland, came hither from Allegheny county to remain. His brother William left in 1797, but managed to hold his 400-acre farm until the provisions of settlement were fulfilled. David, following the example of Archibald St. CLAIR, established a distillery early in this century. In 1830 he bought Dr. John THOMPSON's mills and furnaces on the Slippery Rock, which he carried on successfully to the time of his death in April, 1844. His wife Elizabeth, daughter of the pioneer Aaron MOORE, whom he married in 1797, died in October,1845. Six male members of the MCCANDLESS family accompanied the pioneers of 1796, and four of them located in this township. They were the sons of John MCCANDLESS, who came from Ireland, and settled in Allegheny county with his family. John, one of the colonists of Centre township, was the first sheriff of Butler county. He died in 1810.

John THOMPSON, also one of the Irish pioneers of the Pittsburg region, came from Washington county in 1796 with his wife and eleven children, and made his home here until death removed him, in 1845. Anthony THOMPSON introduced timothy grass here in 1816. Aaron MOORE, John GALBRAITH, the father of Butler county's first newspaper publisher, Archibald St. CLAIR, David WRIGHT, who died in 1823, John MCCLEARY, and fully ninety per cent of the sixty men, who made their homes here in 1796, were natives of Ireland, unpolished diamonds, strong in body and in mind, who opened the way to teeming prosperity.

Nathaniel STEVENSON, mentioned in the history of Franklin township, located here with his wife Mary ALLEN in 1797.

James ALLISON, whose name appears on the first records of the county, came, it is said, after the Indian scare subsided. His son, William, improved upon the scythe by converting it into a cradle and leading all the men in the grain field. Benjamin WALLACE emigrated from Ireland in 1785, and arriving in Franklin county, Pennsylvania, established himself as a distiller there, and made his home in that county until 1802, when he and his brother, Robert, removed to Centre township. Robert appears to have selected a home here in 1797 and to have set out a few apple trees, which he carried with him fron the settlements. Benjamin's wife, Jane HOLLIDAY, died in 1844, and himself in 1852. Of their six daughters and one son, all are dead except Eliza, who married William MCKISSICK.

Isaac CURRY, a native of Ireland, was one of the pioneers in the Unionville neighborhood. John ROSE came from New Jersey in 1800, married Mary STEVENSON, and resided here until his death in 1866. Adam SHANER, who came to what is now Butler township in 1797, removed to Centre prior to 1803, purchased Francis KEARNS' settler's right in 1812, and carried on a little distillery. John ELLIOTT, it is said, was born in Indiana territory in 1793, and was brought by his parents to Centre township in 1801. The family may have been related to William ELLIOTT, one of the colony of 1796, and induced to settle here [p. 583] by him. Simon YOUNG, a miller and farmer, was born in Centre township in 1809, this fact being the only point to indicate the existence of such a family here at that time. Samuel BORLAND came from Westmoreland county about 1812, being then five years old.


The first election in Centre township, after its organization, was held October 8, 1805. Thomas MCKEAN received thirty-two and Simon SNYDER thirty-five votes for governor; James O'HARA twenty-two, M. IRISH eleven and Samuel SMITH thirty-six votes for congressman; S. EWALT thirty and James MARTIN thirty-seven votes for senator; Jacob MECHLING thirty-four, John MCBRIDE thirty-two, Abner LACOCK thirty-eight, George ROBISON twenty-three, Francis MCLURE thirty-six, James CAROTHERS twenty-nine, Ephriam HARRIS one, and Jacob FERREE eight, for assemblyman; William BROWN fourteen, Abner COATS fifteen, W. B. YOUNG seven, David SUTTON five, Hugh CONWAY fourteen, Jacob SMITH eleven, and William JOHNSTON one, for the office of county commissioner.

The justices of the peace in Centre township from 1840 to 1894, are named as follows: John BREWSTER, 1840; John MCCANDLESS, 1840; John SUTTON, 1844; David DAVIS,1845-50; Thomas C. THOMPSON, 1849; William GIBSON, 1852; Nathan MCCANDLESS, 1854 R. K. HUNTER, 1854; Moses THOMPSON, 1857-62; John M. MCCANDLESS, 1859-64; William A. CHRISTIE, 1867-72; Nathan F. MCCANDLESS, 1869; J. C. MOORE, 1874-79-84-89; William ALLISON, 1877-82-87-92.


Schools were introduced in 1803, when a rude, round-log house was erected on Benjamin WALLACE's farm, near where W. P. SMITH now resides. The architecture was in strict conformity with the pioneer style and in keeping with the rugged, healthy teacher and pupils. William WALLACE, it is thought, presided over the school at intervals, until the itinerant teachers found their way into the settlements the same year, when a second school house was erected on David MCJUNKIN's land. Samuel COOK, a well-known pedagogue; Samuel N. MOORE, who moved to Washington township; one of the SLOANS from Venango, and one or more of the CAMPBELLS of Washington, taught here prior to the adoption of the common school system in 1835. There were 138 male and ninety-two female children of school age reported in June, 1893. The State appropriation for schools was $921.35, and the total revenue for school purposes, $1,605.59.


Holyoke United Presbyterian Church was organized August 28, 1874, with the following named members: Mrs. Mary E. MCCANDLESS, Alexander MCWILLIAMS, Elizabeth MCWILLIAMS, Annie J. MCWILLIAMS, Alexander BLAIN, Emeline BLAIN, William BLAIN, Sr., Jane BLAIN, Robert ALLISON, Jane ALLISON, John R. POLLOCK, Alexander POLLOCK, John C. MOORE, M. C. MOORE, George DAWSON, Elizabeth DAWSON, Samuel IRWIN, Jane IRWIN, William ALLISON, Rachel ALLISON, Hugh B. MCWILLIAMS, Charlotte MCWILLIAMS, Thomas R. HOON, Jane HOON, Eliza J. MCKISSICK, Margaret M. SMITH, Maria GARRARD and Susan MILLER. Rev.
[p. 584] W. P. SHAW, the only pastor, was installed June 25, 1877, and resigned about January, 1890, when Rev. J. H. BREADEN came as stated supply. The total number of members received since organization was ninety-seven, and the membership in 1894 was fifty-two. The present house of worship was erected in 1874, meetings being held in Robert MILLER's barn until its completion.

Unionville Presbyterian Church was organized October 30, 1877. For three-quarters of a century previous the Presbyterians of this section were members of the churches at Butler, Muddy Creek and other places. The following is a list of the original members of this church: N. F. MCCANDLESS, Annetta MCCANDLESS, N. W. MCCANDLESS, Robert W. MCCANDLESS, Matilda MCCANDLESS, J. M. H. MCCANDLESS, Martin L. MCCANDLESS, W. C. MCCANDLESS, Amelia MCCANDLESS, A. MOORE MCCANDLESS, Kezia MCCANDLESS, W. S. THOMPSON, Deborah THOMPSON, Emerett THOMPSON, William H. MCCANDLESS, Harriet N. MCCANDLESS, John M. MCCANDLESS, Nancy MCCANDLESS, Thomas T. STEWART, Nancy C. STEWART, Keziah MCCANDLESS, Mary S. MCCANDLESS, Joseph T. MCCANDLESS, Mary E. MCCANDLESS, Elvira VARNUM, H. A. MCCANDLESS, Martha J. MCCANDLESS, Robert J. MILLER, Malinda A. MILLER, Alfred BROWN, Mary J. BROWN, John M. RUSSELL, Mary EAGAL, Nelson BORLAND, Sarah A. BORLAND, J. W. MCCANDLESS, Sabina MCCANDLESS, James S. ROSE, Susanna A. ROSE, Abner MCCANDLESS, Mary S. MCCANDLESS, J. M. BROWN, Margaret BROWN, Robert M. RUSSELL, Keziah RUSSELL and Joseph COULTER. The present membership is eighty-four.

This church has had but one pastor, Rev. Samuel WILLIAMS, who was installed September 13,1878, and continues in the same relation still. The members had nearly all been under his pastoral care, as members of the church of Muddy Creek, to which he has ministered since 1856. On March 24, 1877, the building contract was awarded for a house thirty-six by fifty-six feet, and by November 4, of that year, it was opened for services, though not dedicated until October 18, 1879.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church, organized in 1843, adopted articles of association in 1848, at a meeting over which Christopher RIDER presided, and of which Rev. Eli FAIR was secretary. They with Jacob RIDER, Sr., Daniel HECK, Jr., and William BYERS formed the board of trustees when the society was incorporated. The original members were Jacob, John L. and Samuel RIDER, with their wives, Jacob, Barbara and Nancy BROWN, Daniel HECK and wife, Jacob SCHLEPPY, Frank and Jacob BYERS, with their wives, and Susan, Anna, Catherine, Mary, Sarah, John, William and Daniel BYERS. The pastors who have served this church were: Revs. Gottlieb BASSLER, 1843-45; Elihu RATHBURN, 1846-47; Eli FAIR, 1847-49; J. B. BRECKENRIDGE, 1850-56; J. A. DELO, 1857-58; Jacob SINGER, 1859-65; A. S. MILLER, 1865-67; J. H. FRITZ, 1867-69; Samuel STAUFFER, 1871-74; David TOWNSEND, 1875-77; I. J. DELO, 1877-78, and Chas. L. STREAMER, 1878-85. R. B. STARKS, who came in 1886, is the present pastor, and has a congregation of sixty members. The church, built in 1844, is growing old and steps have been taken to rebuild.

The Church of God was organized in August, 1872, by Rev. Joseph GRIMM, who preached the gospel of that denomination in the BREWSTER neighborhood as [p. 585] early as 1870. The elders were Andrew ALBERT and James S. JONES, and the deacons, Henry ALBERT and Ira BACON. There were twenty-one other members, who, in 1874, aided Rev. J. W. DAVIS in building a frame house of worship.


Unionville was founded by Samuel THOMPSON, at a point on the Mercer turnpike, seven miles northwest of Butler borough in 1828. On December 31 of that year, a sale of lots took place, and two or three small buildings were erected near THOMPSON's store. James THOMPSON succeeded Samuel as merchant in 1830; but in 1833 or 1834, Samuel resumed his mercantile character. David STEWART, the owner of the tavern and first postmaster, succeeded the THOMPSONS as merchant, while BLAISDELL & CORNISH established an opposition store. One or two others engaged in business here before David and Mark MCCANDLESS began merchandising at this point in the forties. Joseph COULTER purchased the mercantile interests and stock of the MCCANDLESS brothers in June, 1847, and entered on what proved to be a long business career, closing in April, 1891. In recent years D. C. MILLER and W. T. CAMPBELL established business houses here.

The appointment of David STEWART as postmaster, in 1839, was one of the most important local events. John M. MCCANDLESS, the new merchant, succeeded him in 1840, and held the office until the early sixties, when F. S. MCGEE was appointed. In December, 1863, MCGEE resigned, and the office was discontinued. After its re-establishment, W. T. CAMPBELL and Joseph COULTER were among the incumbents. In 1889 M. H. MCCANDLESS was appointed postmaster, but in July of that year, was refused possession by Joseph COULTER. Matters were amicably settled, however, and the village is still a postal center. The general store is carried on by Dr. A. HOLMAN.

The Unionville Cemetery Association, organized in 1889 at Unionville, to establish, improve and maintain a public place " for the burial of the human dead," was incorporated April 8, 1889. The members at that time were, W. C. MCCANDLESS, K. J. MCCANDLESS, J. T. MCCANDLESS, Porter A. MCCANDLESS and J. M. RUSSELL.

At FLEEGER the postoffice is the general store of A. F. FLEEGER.

[End of Chapter 52 - Centre Township: History of Butler County Pennsylvania, R. C. Brown Co., Publishers, 1895]

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27 Oct 2000, 08:26