The present limits of Redbank township include a very small part of the original township, which was organized September 18, 1806, and included Redbank, Porter, Monroe, Limestone, Clarion, and Mill Creek townships in this county, and Redbank, Mahoning, and part of Madison in Armstrong county.
The township was named after Redbank Creek, which bounds it on the south, and is also the boundary line between Clarion and Armstrong counties. The Indian name of this creek was "Lycamihoning," but was changed to Sandy Lick, and in 1799 received the name of Redbank. The last change of the name was due to the red color of the soil along its banks.
The first resident of the township was Henry Nolf, who settled on one of the Brodhead tracts in 1800. After various improvements, he obtained a patent for 500 acres, contained in his improvement, founded on a warrant to him in 1806. Beside this tract, Mr. Nolf obtained patents for the land contained in his improvements on the southeastern side of Redbank Creek, Armstrong county, containing 634 acres. He lived for many years at Town Run, and subsisted mainly by fishing and hunting. At this time Redbank Creek abounded in fish, and the forest along the stream was filled with bear and deer. Many are the tales still told of his hunting exploits.
John Mohney, sr., purchased of Pickering & Company a five hundred-acre tract adjoining Nolf's on the south, and built a log house near where Jacob Brinker now lives, and in 1824 erected the stone house which still remains standing. The wisdom of Mr. Mohney's selection of land is now quite obvious, as the best farms at the present time in Redbank township lie within this tract.
Mr. Mohney became an extensive farmer, raising large crops of wheat, which for want of a market was fed to the stock. At his death, the tract was divided into smaller farms, and occupied by his heirs. Adam and Abe located on the eastern part, Isaac on that part lying north of Millville, and subsequently known as the Guyre farm, John on that which is now owned by Jacob Brinker, Mrs. William Hoffman on what is now owned by James McWilliams, Mrs. Miller on the part joining Millville on the west, and Jacob located on a tract in Armstrong county.
Henry C. Barrett purchased from Pickering & Company part of tract 441 in April, 1801. He laid the land out in town lots, and on November 19, 1808, traded lots Nos. 3, 4, and half lots Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 37, 38, 46, 47, and 48, together with the water-right of Redbank Creek at that place, to Henry Nolf for one hundred and fifteen acres of the Thomas Brodhead tract. The tract was [p. 583] valued at $450, and lots Nos. 3 and 4, $100; the nine half lots $200, and the water-right $150. Thus was laid out the foundation of the town of Millville, being so called on account of the mill-seat at that point.
Nolf conveyed all this right to Adam Mohney, April 9, 1811, and he to Isaac Mohney, October 28, 1816.
About the time that John Mohney located in Redbank township, David Silvis located on what is now Samuel Lowry's farm in Porter township. His sons, Daniel and Conrad, took up land in Redbank. Daniel improved a piece of land adjoining Hilliard's and Dovenspike's tracts, and resided there until his death, after which it was sold to Jones & Brinker, who after exhausting the coal sold the surface and their other interests to the Fairmount coal company. Daniel Silvis was married to a daughter of Henry Nolf. She died in 1886, at the age of ninety-three years. Conrad Silvis's farm joined Hilliard also, and was recently sold to the same coal company.
George and Jacob Hilliard, brothers, were among the early settlers of
the northwestern part of the township. John and Elisah, sons of George
Hilliard, inherited their father's farm, and later sold to the coal company,
a history of
which will be subsequently given.
Louis Doverspike (Daubenspike) purchased a four hundred acre tract, including the flat where Fairmount now is, in 1808. After his death the land was divided among the heirs, John, William, Philip, and Henry Swanger, who had married the daughter. For many years these parties successfully farmed the land, but afterwards sold it to the coal company.
The first settler in the eastern part of the township was Archibald McKillip, who came to the country in 1815, and took up three hundred acres. After living on it a few years and becoming dissatisfied on account of the lonesomeness of the locality, he wrote to Mr. Chambers, a former acquaintance in Northampton county, and offered him one-half of his land if he would move on it. Mr. Chambers accepted the offer and in 1818 Mr. McKillip got a neighbor, and Mr. Chambers a farm.
John Shaffer squatted on a piece of land near where Millville now is, at a very early date, but was compelled to move off after the land was purchased by Mr. Mohney.
Christian, Jacob, and Tobias Schick came from Northampton county, about 1820, and purchased of Pickering & Company three hundred acres, lying between Millville and Shannondale.
David Mercer settled the land west of the McKillip settlement. At his death the land was divided among his sons, Amos, George, Joseph, James, David, Johnson, Daniel, and Washington. Johnson still owns and resides on what is known as the old homestead.
Zephaniah Space, of Luzerne county, N. J., purchased of Henry Nolf, fifty acres north of Millville, for which he paid one dollar per acre. He moved on [p. 584] the land in 1818, and besides farming, worked at blacksmithing, and for many years was the only blacksmith in the township.
Daniel Shannon, of Northampton county, landed at William Hoffman's in the Spring of 1822. John Shaffer having died, Mr. Shannon attempted to purchase of the heirs the Shaffer tract of 300 acres. After obtaining eight of the eleven shares, he sold his interest to Joseph Miller, and in 1843 purchased the farm at Shannondale, and besides farming kept a store for many years at that place. His son, Christopher, is still in possession of the property, and at present is one of the oldest and most respected citizens of the township.
The land on which New Maysville is now situated was conveyed to George Geist by Willink & Company, who represented the Holland Land Company, being a part of allotment 5, tract 254, warrant 3058, and adjoining " Deer Park " on the north, containing 43 acres and 94 perches. The boundaries not being well defined, caused much trouble.
George Geist built a mill on this tract in 1833, which was afterward claimed and proven to be on Brown and McConnell's land. The conflicting claims were finally adjusted by compromise. George Geist conveyed the land and mill to Daniel Geist December 17, 1838, for $3,000, who sold it, December 26,1839, to John Hess for $1,500, who afterward conveyed the same to Andrew Wahlman.
New Maysville was completely destroyed by the violent tornado that swept over Armstrong and Clarion counties May 30, 1860. The bridge across Redbank at this place was also blown down. The mill contained three sets of buhrs, one of which was carried up to the dam. Many persons were injured, and several lives were lost by the storm.
West Millville. -- The lands on which the town now stands were owned by the Pickering Land Company. The Pickerings were in the employ of the Holland Land Company, and received land at six cents per acre for surveying. They located tract 441 at this place. The town was laid out and named at a very early period, but little was done in the way of building until after the death of Mr. Mohney, when the land was purchased by Mr. William Sloan, a re-survey was made, and part of the land owned by Mr. McWilliams was also laid out in lots.
The first house was built by William Hoffman in 1803. It was a log house, situated on the land now owned by Mr. McWilliams, who moved it back and now uses it for shelter for stock, and recently erected in its stead a substantial brick dwelling that is in keeping with the place, and which speaks the taste of him who had it erected. Mr. Sloan, the other pioneer of Millville, has also erected a beautiful brick dwelling, surrounded by a fine and tastefully kept lawn, which adds much to the appearance of that part of the town.
Before the building of the Low Grade Railroad, Millville was the chief stopping place for teamsters who hauled merchandise from Mahoning to Brookville. [p. 585] Mr. John Cribbs erected a large hotel for the accommodation of the traveling public and those engaged in hauling merchandise. It was a common thing at that time for the streets to be lined on both sides by wagons loaded with goods, the stables crowded with teams, and the hotel filled with teamsters, raftmen, and travelers. After the completion of the railroad, all hauling from Mahoning and traveling by stagecoach ceased, and the large hotel remains a silent reminder of the past; but the town immediately took on a new aspect. Storehouses, dwelling houses, and work-shops sprang up, till at present the town contains one hundred and seven dwelling houses, six stores, seven work shops of different kinds, two churches -- the first one was built in 1873 by the Evangelical denomination, the second in 1876 by the Presbyterians -- both are neat and tasty edifices and have done much for the moral and religious tendencies of the place.
Two school-houses have been built -- the first one in 1868, which, becoming too small to accommodate all the children of school age, was replaced by a new one, containing two rooms, in 1885. The town has kept pace with other places of the same size in educational matters, sustaining a pay school in the summer months in addition to the free term in the winter. Prof. James Richey, who has become a celebrated linguist, has done much toward creating and directing the educational interests of the place.
Prof. J. J. Wolf, besides being a very successful and enthusiastic teacher, has invented and had patented several very useful inventions.
Z. A. Space had charge of the schools during the last year, and did very effective work.
Stores. -- The first store was started by John Dougherty, a brother-in-law of James Kerr, at what is known as the stone house, in 1825. Previous to this, the nearest store was at Kittanning. Mr. Dougherty moved the store to Brookville in 1828.
Mr. James Kerr started a store at the red house on Town Run, in 1830, which he moved to Millville shortly after, and then sold the same to Messrs. Shannon and McFarland, and from there Mr. Kerr moved to Clarion. Shannon and McFarland divided the store, McFarland moving his part to Ringgold, and Mr. Shannon in 1848 moved his to Shannondale.
Messrs. Abraham Fronk, Workman, and C. R. McNutt, kept store at Millville at an early date.
Mr. John Hilliard started a store at Truittsburg, which he sold to Mercer, and he to Truitt.
The first church was built of logs in 1820, and was situated below the road, opposite the present Lutheran Church. The second Lutheran Church was built by C. R. McNutt, in 1848, and still remains standing.
Industries. -- The early settlers were all engaged in farming, and as there was no grist-mill nearer than Kittanning, many of them would grind their own [p. 586] grain by hand mills, which was very slow and laborious work. The great need of flour and sawed lumber, created an interest in the line of manufacturing them at an early period.
The first grist-mill was built by Archibald McKillip shortly after settling in the township. It was built of logs and was a very primitive affair; very often the water would get too low to grind, then the settlers would be compelled to go to Kittanning to get their grain ground or resort to the hand mill. This state of things caused others to engage in the same business. Henry Nolf built a mill on Town Run, in 1830, and Henry Nolf, jr., better known as Gum Nolf, built one on Sandy Creek. It was an improvement over the others, being arranged so that when the water was too low to grind, the buhrs could be turned by hand. During the dry season all the farmers would flock to this mill, and each would wait his turn, and grind his turn. It was a common thing for farmers to be without flour for weeks, and at the same time have great heaps of wheat garnered in their barns. Many farmers took their wheat to Clough's mill on the Clarion River. Mr. Shannon relates that he took a few bushels of grain to the mill at Patton's Station, and while waiting for it to be ground, he and the miller's son went out to skate on the pond. The miller's son had no shoes and his bare feet would stick to the ice. So Mr. Shannon would skate awhile and then lend his shoes to the miller's son. Mr. John Cathers was the miller and, unlike the millers of the present day, was very poor, yet he lived in a land where flour was in great demand, and grain plenty. After the building of George Geist's mill at New Maysville, in 1833, much of this difficulty was obviated.
The first saw-mill was built by Henry Nolf, on Town Run. In 1830 John Shaffer built a mill on Pine Run, and as sawed lumber was in demand and timber land could be had by moving on it, others engaged in the same business. David Mercer built another mill on the same Run in 1835. Later James McWilliams built a mill at Millville, putting in improved machinery. This was replaced by another, built on a more modern plan, by Henry Miller, and is now owned and operated by Messrs. McAfoose and Miller. The latest erected grist-mill was put up at Millville by Jacob Brinker. It is furnished with the latest improved machinery, including the patent process, and is a model of neatness; cost twenty thousand dollars. Wilson Jones and Captain J. M. Brinker associated together in business and formed the firm of "Jones & Brinker." They purchased of Jacob Raymer, in 1857, a piece of land situated near where Fairmount City now is, on which was built a log hut and barn. They built a distillery on this in 1858, and commenced the manufacturing of whisky the same year. The whisky was of a superior quality, so much so, that "Jones and Brinker Whisky " became world famous. The distillery was run to its utmost capacity until 1871, when they took a contract to build part of the Low Grade Division of the A. V. Railroad. Work was begun on the grade in June, 1871, and pushed to an early completion. The work [p. 587] was accepted by the railroad company and the contractors complimented on the manner in which it was done. Immediately after the completion of this contract, they formed the Fairmount Coal and Iron Company, and purchased twelve hundred acres of valuable coal land adjoining the place where they lived. They laid out the city of Fairmount, built several hundred houses for miners, and entered actively on the work of developing the Fairmount mines. The first day's mining put out twenty-two tons, and the first shipment was made on the 4th of November, 1873. On account of the superiority of the coal, the demand for it in the Buffalo market rapidly increased, and in 1881, they were mining 900 tons daily.
Besides operating the mines they built a large number of coke-ovens, and removed the machinery from the distillery, and put in machinery for manufacturing facing-sand. The mill produced twenty tons of facing-sand per day. The old ware-room was changed, and stocked with merchandise for the accommodation of the miners. This part was superintended by J. Frank McNutt, a man of large experience, and decided business ability.
The Fairmount Coal Company sold out their entire interests in 1881 to a New York syndicate of which Mr. B. K. Jamison was elected president. The mines have since been running successfully under the supervision of Mr. Shaffer. At the present time this company owns 5,000 acres of coal land in Redbank and Porter townships.
Redbank township is rich in mineral deposit, having an abundance of coal, iron ore, and limestone. The entire township is underlaid with two veins of coal. The one that is now being worked is known as the Kittanning vein, and is four feet thick. Below this is the Freeport vein, which is six feet thick, and which in the near future we expect to see mined.
At the mouth of town Run was an Indian village; the Indians remained long after the whites had settled in the townships, but they were always civil, and no serious trouble ever occurred between them. Many vestiges of their camp, such as arrow heads, stone hammers, and stone basins are still found on the site.
The early settlers suffered much loss from the frequent attacks of wolves
and bears upon their stock. "Hunting days" were frequent, in which all
the settlers would engage, the object being to drive the bears and wolves
away from the settlement. In later years hunting parties were formed for
sport. One of the last occurred in 1837. While skating on the dam at Patton's
Station, several parties discovered an old she bear and two cubs in a nest
in the laurel at that place. The next morning George Milliron, Gilmor Montgomery,
Daniel Geist, George Nolf, and several others, collected all the dogs in
the neighborhood -- nine in all -- and started for the lair. They found
her and the cubs in the nest, and the dogs made the attack; but the old
bear would make a rush at the dogs and then run back to the nest. In this
way she killed the cubs. George Milliron shot at her, but his aim being
imperfect, wounded her in the foot. When the gun reported the dogs rushed
in and took hold. As the bear was only slightly wounded she succeeded in
killing five and wounding two of the dogs. Then she left the lair and started
up the creek. After an exciting chase of several hours Daniel Geist succeeded
in killing her. Many deer and wild turkeys were killed for years afterward.