Armstrong County History

Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Indiana and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania.

Published by John M. Gresham & Co.

Managed by Samuel T. Wiley, Historian and Editor.

Nos. 1218 and 1220 N. Filbert Street, Philadelphia


Geological and Historical Sketch of Armstrong County. (Continued..)

Distilleries, salt wells and furnaces -- Railroads -- Great civil war -- Religious -- Educational -- Journalism -- The bar -- Political history -- Census statistics -- Oil excitement -- Progress and development -- Miscellaneous.

Distilleries.---In an early day distilleries were plenty, but subsequently decreased in number.  To-day one of hte largest and most important group of distilleries in Pennsylvania is the Guckenheimer plant at Freeport.

The manufacture of salt along the Kiskiminetas was formerly more extensively carried on than now.  Only one well is at present in working order, the others having from time to time been abandoned as the business became unremunerative.  The salt water comes from the sandstones of the Pocono formation, the top of which underlies the river bed about 250 feet at the centre of the Roaring run anticlinal.  From the same geological horizon the water is pumped that is used in the manufacture of salt near Saltsburg, in Indiana county.

Furnaces.---The manufacture of iron commenced as early as 1825 in Armstrong county.  In that year Rock furnace was built, on the Kiskiminetas river, east of Apollo; although it is claimed that Bear Creek furnace near Parker City was built a few years earlier.  Rock furnace made 20 tons of iron per week and ran until 1855, while Bear Creek furnace had a capacity of 40 tons per week.  Allegheny furnace, on the west bank of the Allegheny, was two miles north of Kittanning and was erected in 1827.  Buffalo furnace No. 1 was built in 1839, by P. Graff & Co., on Buffalo creek, at the crossing of the Kittanning and Butler pike.  It was continued in blast until the close of the war, in 1865.

Following the completion of Buffalo furnace was a period of considerable activity in the iron industry of Armstrong county, extending for nearly twenty years, until the financial crash of 1857.  Many new furnaces were in that time added to the list.  All used charcoal for fuel. 

In 1840 the first of the Great Western furnaces was built at Brady's Bend by Philander Raymond, who subsequently erected here three additional furnaces, besides a rolling-mill and a nail factory.  In fact this plant ultimately became one of the most extensive in Western Pennsylvania, being among the first in America to make iron rails.  Financial embarrassment, however, in the end wrecked the enterprise, and both the furnaces and the rolling-mill were dismantled.  The rolling-mill and nail factory were built in 1841.

Great Western furnaces No. 2 was an exact copy of the first, and was built in 1841.  The capacity of each was 100 tons of metal per week.  They employed the hot blast, but were chiefly distinguished by the large size of their boshes (14 feet) the poor success of which established later the 12 foot boshes as the favorite size for coke furnaces. 

No. 3 furnace was built in 1843.  Its capacity was nearly as great as that of the larger furnaces.

In 1845 three smaller stacks were erected in other parts of the county: 

Ore Hill Furnaces, on the left bank of the Allegheny river, 8 miles northeast of Kittanning.  Its capacity was between 35 and 40 tons per week.

Cowanshannock Furnace (called also Boner Furnace) was situated on Cowanshannock creek, three miles north of Kittanning.

Mahoning Furnace, on Mahoning creek, below Putneyville, was built by Mr. John A. Colwell, of Kittanning, by whom it was most successfully conducted for more than 30 years.  The stack originally, like all the furnaces of that time in the county, was built of stone.  It used the cold blast, and made from 30 to 40 tons of metal per week.  In 1860 the furnace was remodeled to use coke, at which time, also, the stack was not only enlarged, but the stone structure was replaced by an iron jacket, lined with fire-brick.  The hot blast was applied at the same time.  These alterations more than doubled the capacity of the stack.  It went out of blast in September, 1878, in consequence of the depression then existing in the iron trade.  Until the completion recently of the new furnace at Kittanning, the Mahoning furnace was the best arranged iron plant in Armstrong county.

In 1846 five new furnaces were erected:

Brady's Bend Furnace No. 4 was completed.  It made hot blast charcoal iron; was 11 feet in the boshes and 43 feet in height, and had a capacity of about 60 tons of iron per week.

Buffalo Furnace No. 2 was completed by Mr. Graff, on Buffalo creek.  It was 8 by 35; made hot blast charcoal metal, and had a capacity of from 40 to 50 tons per week.

America Furnace was built in the same year, on the east bank of the Allegheny river near the present village of Rimerton.  Its capacity was about 40 tons of hot blast charcoal iron per week.

Phoenix Furnace (coal blast) stood on Mahoning creek below Milton.  Instead of smelting the usual "buhrstone" ore which is locally absent from that region, the furnace used a loamy hematite ore found near Milton. The ore being lean and poor, the enterprise soon proved a failure.

Pine Creek Furnace owned by Messrs. Brown and Mosgrove, of Kittanning, is one of the few original stacks in Armstrong county that were remodeled to use coke after the supply of charcoal had been exhausted.  It occupies a site on the left bank of Pine creek, six miles northeast of Kittanning.

In 1847 little additional capital was invested in the iron trade in Armstrong county.

Olney Furnace alone was built.  It occupies a position on the left bank of Mahoning creek above Eddyville.  It was enlarged in 1855 and shortly afterwards abandoned. was built at Kittanning.  It had 20 puddling furnaces, 3 trains of rolls, and seven machines driven by water.  In 1857 it made 2550 tons of bar iron, nails and castings.*  It was abandoned shortly after the financial break of 1873, remaining then idle until 1880, when, after complete remodeling, operations in it were renewed in connection with the new furnace at Kittanning.  It was formerly called Valley Rolling-mill, and its annual capacity in 1880 was 7000 tons.

Stewardson Furnace was built in 1851.  It is situated on Mahoning creek, 1 1/2 miles from the Allegheny river.  It is built of stone, and its capacity is from 75 to 80 tons per week.

In 1856 the Apollo Rolling-mill was built at Apollo.  The primary object of this enterprise was the manufacture of nails, which proving unsuccessful, was abandoned about 1861, when the production of sheet-iron was commenced.  The mill was originally erected by the Kiskiminetas Iron Co. but subsequently passed out of their hands, and in the next ten years changed ownership several times, finally passing into bankruptcy in 1875; in 1876 it was purchased by Messrs. Laufman & Co., who have since conducted it with marked success and profit.  The iron made is of excellent quality and finds a ready sale in all the markets.

The mill has seven puddling furnaces, and five charcoal fires for sinking wrought scrap iron; two trains of rolls; one steam hammer striking a fifteen ton blow; one set of bar rolls, and one pair of cold rolls.  At the present time the full capacity of the mill is 65 tons of finished iron per week.

The erection of this mill at Apollo in 1856 about completes the period of the production of charcoal iron in Armstrong county, which, as we have seen, flourished with considerable vigor between 1840 and 1850, rising perhaps to its maximum height between 1850 and 1856 and then rapidly declining.  According to the statistics in the Iron Manufacturers' Guide, 20,411 tons of pig iron were produced here in 1856 from eight furnaces.


* Iron Manufacturers' Guide, p. 252

Pg. 317

The manufacture of iron in Armstrong county during the charcoal period was not attended financially with much success.

Abundant railroad facilities, and the recent improved appliances for making iron have wholly changed the conditions which caused the failure of the charcoal furnaces.  With prudent and intelligent management there is now no reason for the failure of a furnace in Armstrong county.

Monticello Furnace was built in 1859, at the mouth of Cowanshannok creek, or Robert E. Brown, and was in operation until 1873 and attempted to use high grade lake ores with native carbonates.

The Leechburg Rolling-mill was built in 1872.  It is distinguished for having been the first to successfully employ natural gas in iron-making.  The iron produced is of excellent quality.

The Kittaning Furnace, erected in 1880, is not only the largest, but by far the most complete in all its appointments, of any furnace plant int he Allegheny Valley, out of Pittsburg.  It stands on the river bank at the southern end of Kittanning, close to the rolling-mill.

Iron Ores.--- The greater part of all the iron made in Armstrong county, either in times past or recently, has been from the reduction of the so called Buhrstone ore.  The Brady's Bend furnaces, and those also of Mr. Graff, on Buffalo creek, used some ore from the Freeport group, of which, however, the outspread in workable thickness in Armstrong county is confined to the neighborhood of those furnaces.  Monticello furnace in its time, as already stated, attempted the importation of the lake ore, but without success. 

Whatever importations of other ore may in future be made into the county, to improve the grade of the iron, the Buhrstone stratum will always remain the chief source of supply so long as furnaces are operated here.  Its range of outcrop extends over hundreds of miles in nearly horizontal rocks; its average thickness is about 8 inches; its character is singularly uniform; it can be easily and inexpensively mined; it is always accompanied by the Ferriferous limestone stratum which directly underlies it and which serves for flux in the furnace; it works easily in the stack; and when proper attention is paid to the assortment of the ores and their preparation for the stack, this Buhrstone stratum is capable of producing a pig metal containing about five-tenths of one per cent. of phosphorus.

Mr. McCreath analzyed samples of the ore, selected from all parts of the county.  The results as a whole show not only the uniformity in the grade of the ore above alluded to, but they show the ores also to consist of three varieties, according to the amount of decomposition that has taken place, namely, limestone-carbonate ore, brown hematite, and an impure variety of red hematite.  The carbonates unroasted average from 33 to 38 per cent. of metallic iron; the brown and red ores contain as high as 50 per cent. of iron, the average being about 45 per cent.  All of the ores are comparatively low in phosphorus -- two-tenths of one per cent.  being the usual amount, both in the carbonates and hematites.  The sulphur is also low, amounting in many cases to scarcely more than a trace.  The hematites contain none of the protoxide of iron. 

Any poor quality of iron made from these ores will be due to defective methods of manufacture and not to the impurity of the ores.

Railroads.---The county is now supplied with railroads which carry its products to all the important markets of the world.

The Allegheny Valley railroad with its connections opens up this county to the region of the lakes and Canada.  Southward it connects with the Pennsylvania railroad at Pittsburgh.  Its Bennett's branch extension, 110 miles long, affords another outlet north and east, as well as also southward; it occupies the Red Bank Valley, passing subsequently at easy grades across the mountain region of Jefferson and Clearfield, and on thence to Driftwood, where it intersects with the Philadelphia and Erie railroad.

The Butler and Karns City narrow-gauge railroad starts at Parker City, on the Allegheny river, and follows thence up Bear creek across the oil fields of northern Butler.

The West Pennsylvania railroad (standard gauge) occupies the valley of the Kiskiminetas river, whose left bank it follows until it crosses the Allegheny river above Freeport.  It belongs to the Pennsylvania railroad system, and runs from Blairsville Interjunction to Pittsburgh.  The Butler Branch of the West Pennsylvania railroad extends from Freeport to the county-seat of Butler.

The question of slack water navigation on the Allegheny river has recently received some discussion, as also that of re-opening the old line of water communication between Pittsburgh and the east.

Transcribed by Linda Blum-Barton November 2008

The Great Civil War.---Armstrong county was prompt in her response to Abraham Lincoln's call for troops when the Union flag went down on Sumter's shattered walls.  On April 18, 1861, Capt. Sirwell left with a company of one hundred and fourteen men for the seat of war, and four days later another company left which was followed in a short time by a company from Apollo, under Captain (afterwards General) S. M. Jackson.  Camp Orr was soon established on the fair grounds above Kittanning, where the 78th and 103d regiments were recruited and drilled.  The 78th, commanded by Col. William Sirwell, left camp on October 14, 1861, and the 103d, under Col. T. F. Lehman, went to the front on February 24, 1862.  Citizens of Armstrong county served in considerable numbers in the 8th, 9th and 11th Pennsylvania Reserves, the 2d cavalry and 62d, 78th, 103d, 139th, 155th, 159th (14th cavalry), and 204th (Fifth artillery) regiments, Pennsylvania Volunteers.  The county was also represented in forty-five other Pennsylvania regiments.  According to an accurate calculation of Col. Sirwell, Armstrong county furnished three thousand six hundred and fifty-two men to the Union armies during the war.  Over fifty-seven thousand dollars were paid from the county treasury for relief of soldiers' families, and thirty-three thousand dollars were paid for bounties.

Religious. ---- In 1802 there were two (Presbyterian) churches on the west side of the Allegheny river, and sixteen years later Sunday-schools were organized.   By 1850 the churches had increased to sixty-five in number.  In 1876 there were in the county over one hundred churches, of which twenty-nine were Lutheran, twenty-four Presbyterian, nineteen Methodist Episcopal, thirteen United Presbyterian, twelve Reformed, ten Baptist, some German Baptist and several Catholic.  The Armstrong County Bible society was formed September 15, 1828.

Educational.--- Armstrong had as good subscription schools from 1800 to 1838 as any of the western counties of Pennsylvania, and her public schools since 1838 have continually increased in number and efficiency, until now they will compare favorably with the schools of any county in the State.  Of the early teachers and schools, Superintendent A. D. Glenn, in his valuable centennial school sketch of the county, states that he could obtain but little information.  Teachers' institutes were held as early as 1856, and the first county institute was held in April, 1858.  The Dayton Soldiers' Orphan school was opened November 1, 1866, with Rev. T. M. Elder as principal.  The following academies in the county were opened at the dates:   Kittanning academy, 1820 (ceased 1866); Freeport academy, 1836; Glad Run academy, November 1, 1851; Dayton Union academy, April, 1852; Leechburg academy, 1855 (burned down 1876); and Elderton academy, 1864.  Slate Lick classical institute began its work in 1865, and Plum Creek Normal school ran  from 1874 to 1877, while Doeville seminary was a useful institution for several years.  Lambeth college was incorporated by the court in December, 1868, and existed until 1876.  In May, 1868, Columbia university (a continuation of Kittanning university) was opening at Kittanning, but in two years was closed.

Journalism.--- The first paper in the county was The Western Eagle, which was established at Kittanning, by Capt. James Alexander, on September 10, 1810.  Twenty-three years later William Badger issued the Olive Branch, at Freeport, and November 6, 1835, the first number of the Lacon was issued at Apollo.  The Leechburg Enterprise was established in 1873 and the Dayton News made its appearance on November 10, 1882.  The present press of the county comprises the following weekly papers:  Armstrong Democrat and Sentinel, Armstrong Republican, County Standard, Globe, Times and Union Free Press, of Kittanning; Herald, of Apollo; News, of Dayton; Journal, of Freeport; Advance, of Leechburg, and Phenix, of Parker City.

The Bar.--- The Armstrong county bar compares favorably with the bars of the other counties of western Pennsylvania, and will receive more extended mention in the history of Kittanning.

Medical Profession --- The medical profession is well represented in Armstrong county an its prominent members will receive mention in the borough and town histories.

Political History.--- In place of township and county elections, we give the vote of the county cast at every Presidential election since the people have had the right to vote for president:

Popular Vote of Armstrong County at Presidential Elections from 1824 to 1888.

1824 Republican Andrew Jackson 286
  Calition John Q. Adams 16
  Reublican William H. Crawford 6
  Repblican Henry Clay 1
1828 Democratic Andrew Jackson 1,133
  Nat.Rep. John Q. Adams 169
1832 Democratic Andrew Jackson 1,437
  Anti-asonic William Wirt 429
1836 Democratic Martin Van Buren 1,528
  Whig illiam H Harrison 1,014
1840 Democratic Martin Van Buren 1,744
  Whig Wlliam H. Harrison 1,260
  Liberty James G. Birney  
1844 emocratic James K. Polk 1,983
  Whig Heny Clay 1,453
  Liberty Jmes G. Birney 38
1848 Democratic Lewis Cass 2,126
  Whig Zachay Taylor 2,030
  Free Soil Mrtin Van Buren 141
1852 Democratic Franklin Pierce 2,430
  Whig Winfiel Scott 2,093
  Free Dem. Joh P. Hale 142
1856 Republican John C. Fremont 2,963
  Democratic Jams Buchanan 2,680
  American Millar Fillmore 188
1860 Republican Abraham Lincoln 3,355
  Democratic John . Breckinridge 2,108
  Cons't Union JohnBell 50
  Ind. Dem. Stephen . Douglas 5
1864 Republican Abraham Lincoln 3,526
  Democratic George B McClellan 3,331
1868 Republican Ulysses S. Grant 4,082
  Democratic Horatio Symour 3,412
1872 Republican Ulysses S. Grant 4,297
  Dem. & Lib. Horace Greley 2,078
  Democratic Charles O'Cnnor  
  Temperance James Back  
1876 Republican Rutherord B. Hayes 4,613
  Democratic Samuel J. Tilde 3,821
  Prohibition Green Clay Smit 19
  Greenback Peter Cooper 1
1880 Republican James A. Garfield 4,721
  Democratic Winfield S. Hancok 3,991
  Greenback James B. Weaver 37
  Prohibition Neal Dow 0
188 Republican James G. Blaine 4,685
  Democratic Grover Cleveland 3,91
  Prohibition John P. St. John 27
  Greenback Benjamin F. Butler 156
1888 Republican Benjamin Harrison 5,030
  Democratic Grover Cleveland 3,76
  Prohibition Clinton B. Fisk 193
  Greenback Alson J. Streeter 14

Census Statistics.--- Population of Armstrong county at each census from 1800 to 1890: 1800: 2,399; 1810: 6,143; 1820: 10,324; 1830:  17,701; 1840: 28,365; 1850: 29,560; 1860: 35,797; 1870: 43,382; 1880: 47,641; 1890, _______.

Colored population from 1800 to 1890:  1800: 0; 1810: 4; 1820: 42; 1830: 96; 1840: 112; 1850: 129; 1860: 178; 1870: 179; 1880: 278; 1890: _______.

By the census of 1820 there were in Armstrong county: 1,146 spinning-wheels, 244 looms, 1 fulling-mill, 4 batteries, manufacturing 1000 hats; 1 nailery, making 2,500 pounds of nails; 16 blacksmith shops, doing $8,000 worth of work; 21 distilleries, making 63,000 gallons of liquor; 4 potteries, 29 wheat-mills, grinding 87,000 bushels of wheat; 11 saw mills cutting 550,000  feet of lumber.  There were in the county 1,821 horses and 4,689 neat cattle.

By the census reports of 1880 Armstrong county had 4,026 farms, containing 378,960 acres.  In 1879 the following amounts of grain were raised from the number of acres given: 

Grain. Acres. Bushels.
Buckwheat 7,713 87,935
Rye 9,535 79,165
Oats 31,370 749,437
Corn 24,684 753,509
Wheat 27,967 228,743

There were 3,463 acres of meadow which yielded 27,878 tons of hay and also five acres of tobacco which made a yield of 2,730 pounds of that article.  There were in the county 10,342 horses, 14,159 milch cows, 18,272 other cattle, 34,814 sheep and 30,975 swine.  There were two hundred manufacturing establishments with an invested capital of nearly $2,000,000 and employing over 1,000 hands.

Population of Minor Civil Divisions of Armstrong County, from 1850 to 1880.

Twp or Borough 1850. 1860. 1870. 1880.
Allegheny 2,506 2,406 2,539  
Apollo    331    449    764 1156
Aladin          49  
Bethel          87
Boggs       1,010
Brdy's Bend 2,325 1,90 3,19 2,340
Burrell      833    964 1,047
Cowanshannock ,318 1,964 2,246 2,611
Dayton          579
East Franklin     1,45 1695
Elderton      196    35    299
Freeport 1,073 1691 1,640 1,614
Gilpin       1,190
Hovey          589
Kiskmintas 2,430 2,080 1,78 ,69
Kittanning (bor.) 1,561 1,696 1,889 2,624
Kittanning 1,175 1,237 1,504 1,681
Leechburg     359    368 1,123
Madison 1,151 1,440 1,61 1,950
Mahoning   1,446 1,402 1,930
Manor    775 1,210 1,071 1,508
Manorville        330   327
North Buffalo   916 1,175 1,57 1,216
Parker City       1,835
Parks          715
Perry   79   99 3,877 1,309
Pne 3,49 1,521 1,642    728
Plum Creek 2,215 1,817 1,738 1,996
Queenstown     119   201   217
Red Bank 1,980 1,305 1,341 1,67
South Bend 1,266 1,571 1,633 1,151
South Buffalo 1,266 1,571 1,633 1,715
Sugar Creek 1,688 1,101 1,023 1,018
Valley   1,552 1,821 1,861
Washington     988 1,180 1,489
Wayne 1,348 1,576 2,028 1,567
West Franklin     213 1,098 1,129
Worthington     213    216    86

Allegheny township and Aladin boough have passed out of existence and the census returns of 1890 could not be obtained at this writing.

Population of Early Townships from 1810 to 1840.

  1810 1820 1830 1840
Pine       1,227
Kittannin 1,197   976 1,629 1,323
Bufalo 1150 1,597 2,458 1,820
Clarion     2,067 2,239
Toby   611 1,156 1,362 1,829
Perry       853 1,112
Kittanning (bor.)   309   318   526    72
Sugar Creek 1,113 1,482 1,873 1,852
Red Bank   943 2,042 1,660 3,078
Plum Creek   1,340 1,456 2,216
Allegheny   820 1,413 2,966 1,839
ayne       878 1,875
Monroe       1,151
Madison       1,05
Franklin       1,713

Villages and Populaton,188.

Atwood Cowansannck  149
Brady's Bend Brady's Bend 1010
Buffalo West Franklin    77
Clayton or Girty South Bend    44
Clinton South Buffalo   127
Cowansville East Franklin    77
Craigsville West Franklin  106
Deanville Madison    69
Duncanville Madison    30
Eddyville Red Bank    52
Kellersburg Madison    58
Laneville South Buffalo   206
Meenanville South Buffalo    52
Milton Red Bank  100
Mt. Tabor Red Bank    23
Mouth of Mahon Pine  146
New Salem Red Bank    80
North Freedom Red Bank  144
Rimerton Madison  127
Rural Valley Cowanshannock  183
South Bend South Bend    54
Stewartson's Furnace Pine  299
Templeton Pine  163
Watersonville Washington  144
Whitesburg Plum Creek    60

Oil Excitement.--- The northwestern part of the county lies in the "Lower Oil Fields" and the belt of the Third Oil sand crosses the Allegheny river from Clarion county, above Parker City, stretching thence across Hovey township into Butler county.  The "Fourth sand" belt trending nearly east and west is at Brady's Bend. South from this locality and across the Brady's Bend anticlinal no oil has yet been discovered, either at the horizon of the "Third" or "Fourth" sands, or at any other horizon within a distance of two thousand feet below the surface.  It would therefore appear that the oil-producing area is confined to the region west of the Brady's Bend anticlinal axis.

We quote concerning the first oil well in the county from Henry's "History of Petroleum": "In the winter of 1864-65 the oil excitements of the upper and lower Oil creek regions were at their height, and Mr. William D. Robinson very earnestly conceived the idea that oil deposits existed in the region of his third of a century's residence.  He had examined and carefully noted the then generally received opinion of 'surface indications,' and soon reached the conviction that oil could be found there.  He purchased thirty-six acres of the old homestead farm, lying on the Allegheny river and now forming a portion of Parker's Landing.  This thirty-six acres of land he made the basis of a stock company.  In the spring of 1865 he commenced his first well under the auspices of this company, and this was the first oil well drilled at Parker's Landing.  The embarrassment attending the first effort to find oil at Parker's Landing may be estimated by those familiar with new territory.  All the machinery for the new well had to be boated from Pittsburgh or Oil City, and there was neither derrick nor development between these two points, fifty and sixty miles from a machine shop, if a break occurred.  Pittsburgh, Oil City, or Titusville, were the nearest points for repairs.  It required the entire summer of 1865 -- nearly six months -- to complete this well.  In October, 1865, the sand pump brought up the unmistakable evidence of a 'third' sand, or oil rock.  The well was tubed and started off at about ten barrels per day."

Progress and Development.--- In the history of the territory of Armstrong county, the pioneer period of 1781 to 1800 was a war period full of dangers from the Indians.  From 1800 to 1825 was a period of great improvement.  The single-story round-log cabin of the frontier, standing in a deadened clearing, had been succeeded by the respectable two-story hewn-log house, surrounded by cultivated fields and waving grain.  The bridle-path and pack-horse road had been transformed into the more commodious emigrant road, which had in turn given place to county and State pikes; while the hand-mill and tub-mill were replaced with the water-power grist-mill.  During the days of the pack-saddle paths and early roads the necessaries of life commanded high prices, a bushel of salt being worth four dollars, and a pound of iron twelve cents.  Luxuries commanded extravagant figures; a pound of coffee sold for a dollar, and a yard of calico for half that amount.

From 1825 to 1860 was the period of charcoal iron manufacture, during which time also the salt industry was developed and reached the height of its prosperity.  Substantial stone and good brick dwellings succeeded the hewed log houses, and the Allegheny Valley R. R. was built during the latter years of this period.  The development inaugurated by the building of railroads and the introduction of coke as a fuel in the manufacture of iron was checked in 1861 when the late civil war commenced.  During that great struggle the sons of Armstrong county won for themselves under McClellan, Sherman, Sheridan and Grant, a highly-honorable and imperishable war record.  About the close of the war came the oil excitement, which was followed some ten years by an era of railroad building which will not be completed until the great coal, iron ore and fire-clay beds of the county are fully developed.

The old log subscription school-house, which also answered for a preaching-place, has long since disappeared, but, in its stead, on every hill and in every valley, the spire and dome of church and school appear, indexing the upward tendencies and onward progress of the age.

Armstrong is one of the richest mineral counties in the Union, its great coal beds average four feet in extent and underlie almost the entire surface of the county, while a very rich deposit of cannel coal nine feet thick is within its borders.  Limestone, building-rock and roofing slate with traces of lead are found in the northern part where salt-water, oil and natural gas are to be obtained.  Iron-ore, limestone and fire-clay are abundant in almost every section of the county and valuable beds of mineral paint are said to exist in some of the townships.  The county, while wonderfully rich in minerals, is not backwards in agriculture, for it possesses a productive soil and ranks as one of the foremost agricultural counties of the State.

The growth of its manufacturing interests has been commensurate with the development of its material resources.  The Kittanning rolling-mill, the sheet-iron and carbonized steel mills of P. Laufman & Co., of Apollo, and the rolling-mill at Leechburg are leading iron industries of the State as well as of Armstrong county.

The Graff and the Rumberger woolen-mills on Buffalo creek will compare favorably with the woolen manufacturing establishments of any section of hte State; while Reese's silica fire-brick works and the Wick China-ware potteries of Kittanning are the largest works of their kind to be found in the United States.  Rock quarries, cement beds and glass sand deposits exist in many places throughout hte county.  The coke industry is in its infancy, but will soon attain to respectable dimensions through the labors of Capt. Albert Hicks and other public-spirited and progressive citizens.  A detailed account of all these resources and industries will be found in the township histories.

Miscellaneous.--- "Gen. Armstrong purchased from the proprietors of the then Province of Pennsylvania 556 1/2 acres with the usual allowances.  The tract was surveyed to him by virtue of a proprietary letter to the secretary, dated May 29, 1771, on November 5, 1794.  The patent for that tract bears date March 23, 1775.  It is thus described: 'A certain tract of land called Victory, containing five hundred and fifty-six and one-half acres and the usual allowances, including the Indian town and settlement called Kittanning.'  That tract of land, with other property, was devised by the will of Gen. Armstrong, proven July 25, 1797, to his two sons, John and James."

The Armstrong county Bible society was formed at the court-house on Monday, September 15, 1828, when Thomas Hamilton was chosen president and James E. Brown, secretary.  In 1841 it made an effort to distribute Bibles and Testaments in every township and during the Centennial year it sought to supply every family in the county with a Bible.

In 1850 Armstrong county had: grist-mills, 21; saw-mills, 13; salt-boiling establishments, 12; carpentering and building establishments, 5; manufactories of brick, 9; manufactories of tin and sheet-iron ware, 3; manufactories of woolen fabrics, 3; manufactories of nails, 1; rolling-mills, 2; furnaces for making iron, 6; iron foundries, 2; tanneries, 8.

"At a Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, held at Robert Hanna's, Esquire, for the county of Westmoreland, the sixth day of April, in the thirteenth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord, George the third, by the grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.  And in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-three, before William Crawford, Esquire, and his associate justices of the same court.

"The court proceeded to divide the said county into the following townships by the limits and descriptions hereinafter following, viz.: "Fairfield....Donegal....Huntingdon....Mount Pleasant ... Hempfield ... Pitt ... Tyrone ... Spring Hill ... Manallan ... Rostraver ... Armstrong.  Beginning where the line of the county crosses the Conemach" --- nearly midway between the Conemaugh Furnace and Sang Hollow, on the Pennsylvania Railroad --- "then running with that river to the line of Fairfield, along that line to the Loyal Haunon, then down the Loyal Haunon and the Kiskiminetas to the Allegheny, then up the Allegheny to the Kittanning, then with a straight line to the head-waters of Two Lick or Black Lick creek, and thence with a straight line to the beginning."

The Holland Land company owned large tracts of land in Armstrong county, as well as in Indiana and other counties of Pennsylvania, and its history will be found on page 66 of this work.

In 1828 Armstrong county paid $3625 for the scalps of wolves and panthers that were killed within the borders of the county.

The Pensioners for Revolutionary and Military services in Armstrong county in 1840 were:  Peter Yungst, Daniel Davis, Addy Anderson, David Shields, John Brown, Thomas Meredith, Henry Davis, Sarah Smith, James McCaine, James Buchanan, Martha Stone, Joseph Everet, Gideon Gibson, Hugh Callen, Sr., Samuel Austin, John Wilson, Sr., Mary Soliday, Isaac Steel, Sr., Daniel Gould, Ezekiel Lewis, Manassas McFadden, Joseph McDonald, Henry Reefer, William Hill, Samuel Murphy, Margaret Laughrey, John Sipe, Eleanor Rayburn, Andrew Daugherty, Killian Briney, John Davis, Sr., Michael Hartinan, Sarah Williard, Michael Truby, James Walker, Thomas Taylor, Robert Patrick, Sr.

The Pennsylvania canal entered Armstrong county nine miles above Apollo, and crossed the Kiskiminetas to its north bank, which it followed to the Allegheny, and crossing the latter river by an aqueduct, followed the Allegheny for one and one-half miles below Freeport, where it left the county.  The Indiana and Kittanning turnpike runs northwest through the county to the Butler county line.

The timber of the county is black, red, white and rock oak, chestnut, hickory, ash, walnut, sugar maple, elm and cherry.

By Act of Assembly, March 12, 1800, the county-seat was to be located not farther than five miles from "Old Kittanning Town," and John Craig, James Sloan and James Barr were appointed trustees to receive the title for the land for the public buildings.  In 1803, James Matthews and Alexander Walker were appointed in place of Craig and Barr, and Walker having declined to act, it devolved upon Sloan and Matthews to locate the county-seat and organize the county.  They selected the present site of Kittanning, and on December 17, 1804, received a deed for 150 acres of Gen. Armstrong's "Victory" tract from his sons, Dr. James and John Armstrong.  This land was given by the Armstrongs in view of enhancing the value of the remainder of their tract.

Armstrong was attached to Westmoreland county for several years after its organization.  It was organized for judicial purposes in 1805, and the first court was held in a log house on the site of the Reynolds house in Kittanning, with Samuel Roberts as president and James Barr, Robert Orr and George Ross as associate judges.

The scenery of the Allegheny Valley is so beautiful and impressive, as to have received high praise at the hands of Bayard Taylor, Dom Pedro and other noted travelers, who have passed over the Allegheny Valley Railroad.

In 1818 there were only two post-offices in the county and seventy years later (1888) the following offices were in the county:   Adams, Adrian, Apollo, Arnold, Atwood, Barnard's, Belknap, Blanco, Blanket Hill, Brady's Bend, Brattonville, Bryan, Cochran's Mills, Cowansville, Craigsville, Dayton, Deanville, Dime, Echo, Eddyville, Elderton, Foster's Mills, Freeport, Girty, Goheenville, Gosford, Greendale, Kaylor, Kellersburg, Kelley's Station, Kittanning (c. h.), Leechburg, Logansport, Long Run, McHadden, McVill, McWilliams, Mahoning, Manorville, Muff, North Buffalo, North Freedom, Oakland, Oak Ridge Station, Olivet, Parker's Landing, Phoenix, Pierce, Putneyville, Queenstown, Rimer, Rosston, Rural Valley, Schenley Station, Shady Plain, Sherrett, Slate Lick, South Bend, Spring Church, Sydney, Templeton, Top, Walkchalk, West Valley, Whitesburg, Widnoon, Worthington.

In 1820 there were 20 stores in the county, which had increased to 79 in number in 1840.  In 1876 there were 358 wholesale and retail dealers on the mercantile appraisers' list.

The Armstrong county Agricultural society was organized in 1855, and existed until 1857, when it went out of existence after it held two very successful fairs.

By resolutions of Congress two surveys of the Allegheny river have been made: one in 1829 and the other in 1837.

In 1863 the first telegraph line was erected, and now telegraph lines extend along every railroad.

As Armstrong county is rapidly nearing the threshold of the second century of her existence as a political division of Pennsylvania, let not her people forget the obligations which rest upon them as individuals, to do each his part in the future, to secure the continued prosperity of their county and the happiness of their fellow-citizens.  Let the people of Armstrong county rejoice in their arts and industries, in their fields and mines, in their homes, their schools, their churches, and, above all, in their Christian civilization.

Samuel T. Wiley [sig]

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This page was last updated on -12/31/2012

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By Linda Blum-Barton