Fredonia, Mercer County, PA

Mercer County Genealogy


Places Fredonia     


Fredonia, one of the growing places of Mercer County, is pleasantly situated in a rich agricultural region, on the west side of Otter Creek. some six or seven miles west of north of Mercer. It lies partly within both Fairview and Delaware Townships, the larger portion, however, having been located in the former. The first improvement within the present borough limits was made in 1834 by Levi Arnold. It embraced the clearing of ten acres of land near the site of the grist-mill built by Mr. Arnold and subsequently owned by B. R. Mitchell. A little more than half a century ago the site of the village was marked with all the evidences of primitive wildness, no cabin or rude shanty of any kind affording a home for civilized man. The land was composed of two distinct “donation tracts,” which fact accounts readily for the tardy development of the region.

Arnold had some progressive spirit, and moved ahead until he became the holder of large possessions. An evil day finally overtook him, and he was compelled to let his property go. In 1837-38 Mr. Arnold erected a grist and saw-mill, for many years known as “Arnold’s Mills,” which may be regarded as the real beginning of the place.

In 1887 B. R. Mitchell built, on Arnold’s land, a small, round-log cabin, not far from a refreshing spring. The site was in the southeast part of the borough. In this rude dwelling lived Mr. Mitchell’s family, and in it, too, his daughter Caroline first looked forth upon this fair world, the first child born in Fredonia. She subsequently married Mr. Studds, and became an honored resident of Fairview Township.. Mr. Mitchell, a native of New Eng­land, thus became one of the benefactors of Fredonia, and specially serviceable in its milling interests.

The Arnold property was purchased by James Sheriff, of Mercer. He subsequently sold to Jesse Bundle, an Eastern man, who erected a tannery and a log house and made improvements in the way of clearing. His business not proving successful he became discouraged, and removed West “to grow up with the country.” Two other men, Thomas White and William Thompson, were neighbors of Bundle, engaged in an effort to clear their lands and establish homes. White soon abandoned the struggle and left, but Thompson remained until the time of his death.

Aaron Arnold was the first man to erect a respectable dwelling-house in the new village. It would hardly pass muster now, but served the purpose quite well then. It was a board dwelling, and stood upon lands subsequently owned by William Simmons.

The real origin of Fredonia is traced to William Simmons, who, in March, 1886, took possession of the house vacated by Jesse Bundle, and at once commenced the erection of a frame store building, the first of the kind in the village. In it he did a thriving business, being urged on by the prospects of the completion of the Shenango & Allegheny Railroad at an early date. Nor was be disappointed. On land purchased by him he laid out the village, which some of his friends were disposed to call, in honor of his name, Simmonsville. This honor he generously refused, and suggested the name which it now bears, Fredonia. Lots were now sold freely, and evidences of growth were manifest everywhere.

In 1867 William Thompson built the first regular frame dwelling. The same year Mr. S. Royal built a blacksmith shop.

In 1870 a post-office was established, and Mr. Simmons became the first postmaster, his commission dating August 8. Mr. H. McKay began the same year to deal in grain and coal. In the latter business he was succeeded by Harsh & Sutliff.

Dr. Cornelius Byles, in 1874, rented an office and became the first physician of the place. Two years later he built an office, and likewise erected the first hardware store. In November of this year (1876) Dr. Davenny came from Oil City and located in the village.

In 1871 the planing-mill of Slater, Hoover & White was established, George I. Sister erecting the building and operating it for a time alone, and then accepting the other gentlemen as partners.

In 1873 several improvements of value were made. S. M. Loveland, from Otter Creek T wnship, established a large harness shop. J. Bear built a tannery, which was operated by steam with eminent success.

In 1875 Roof, Pleifle & Co. built, on Main Street, a large carriage manufactory, and John Noll built another, 22x50, two stories high, on Water Street. At present a stock company operates the factory. Its purpose is to manufact­ure vehicles on an extensive scale.

A large frame, steam flouting mill is now in process of construction, and when completed will embrace the best and most improved machinery. It will be owned and operated by George Gaiser, whose long and successful experience as a miller is a guarantee of prosperity in his new enterprise.  

Churches. —Fredonia has two churches, Methodist and Presbyterian. The Methodist Church erected its edifice in 1872, it being a modest structure, 30x40. Preaching had been done for some years previous, the name of Rev. J.H. Merchant appearing as early as 1870. The first sermon in the new house was preached by Rev. Albert H. Kenney. The congregation has had a steady and healthy growth. The following is the list of pastors: J. H. Merchant, 1870; D. A. Crowell, 1871; A. H. Kenney, 1872—73; F. Fair, 1874—76; J. Abbott, 1877; J. Crum, 1878—79; John Perry, 1880—81; W. H. Mossman, 1882; B. M. Bear, 1888—85; G. J. Squier, 1886—present incumbent.

The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1875 by Rev. James McLean, and a house of worship, a frame structure, about 40x50,erected at a cost of $3,000. The congregation is mainly a colony from the Cool Spring Presbyterian Church, and embraced in its list of original members James Walker and wife and children, A. D. Walker and Miss Callie Walker, Thomas McCleery and wife, Dr. C. Byles and wife, Misses Jennie, Lizzie and Julia Byles, William Moore and wife, James Byers and wife, Elias Orr and wife, Robert, Samuel and John Orr, and Misses Sado, Mary and Maggie Orr, Samuel White and wife, Samuel Baker and wife and Charles Baker and wife. The following is the list of pastors: Revs. James McLean, Thomas Hickling, J. M. Stitt, A. B. Lowes, S. L. Boston and J. E. Irvine, the present incumbent The congregation enrolls 175 members, and has a Sunday-school of 120 pupils.

Schools. — For a time the schools of the place consisted of an edifice which belonged to District No. 5, Fairview Township. It proving too small, a two-story structure with four rooms was erected to accommodate the people. For several years a select school or normal academy has been conducted in it with great acceptance.

Societies. - - Eulalia Lodge No. 818, I. O. O. F., was organized December 80, 1872, with twenty members. Its first officers were: S. M. Loveland, N. G.; S. Baker, V. G.; B. A. Harsh, secretary; John Foster, assistant secretary, and George Dunkle, treasurer.

Fredonia Grange No. 643 was established in 1872, with upward of twenty members. Among its leading spirits were S. M. Loveland, who was the first Master, William McKay and James Marsteller. Like its sister organizations throughout the country, it has had its day.

Fredonia W. C. T. U. was organized November 25, 1881, at the Presbyterian Church, by Miss Narcissa E. White, with the following charter members: Mrs. J. M. Stitt, Miss Sadia Pearson, Julia Byles, Mary Pearson, Mrs. Mary Walker, Jennie Harsh, Mrs. W. Moore, Eva Moore, Etta Walker, Mary E. Stubbs, and M. A. Braden. The officers in succession from the first were: Presidents, Mrs. J. M. Stitt, Miss Mary Pearson, Mrs. Mary Walker, Mrs. Eliza Ball; recording secretaries, Miss Sadie Pearson, Mrs. Mary Stubbs, Miss Jennie Harsh, Mrs. F. G. Byles and Mrs. N. A. Simmons. The Union is in good condition, and determined to persevere in its noble purpose.

Fredonia was incorporated as a borough in August, 1876, and then commenced its official life. The census of 1880 gave it a population of 823, which it is claimed, has increased to about 500 during the past eight years. Located in the center of a fine farming district, there is no reason why the borough should not remain one of the flourishing little towns of the county.

 History of Mercer County, pages 510-513


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