History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1883-31

History of Butler County Pennsylvania - 1883

Chapter 31 -- Clearfield Township

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Transcribed by Pat Collins. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.





[p. 295]

Clearfield, under its present organization, forms but a small portion of the original township. Since the organization of the county its area has been reduced from time to time by the formation of other townships from its territory, the last of which were Donegal and Buffalo. [p. 296] Its existence is coeval with the county and although there is no documentary evidence extant, yet it is even asserted by the oldest inhabitants of this township that it existed before the separation of Butler county from Westmoreland. [1]

It is an old township, and early in the history of this county it embraced an extended area. It derived its name from the fact that when the early settlers came in from Westmoreland County and elsewhere as early as 1794, they discovered, much to their surprise, a large square of cleared land in the vicinity of a family of MILLIGANs, in Buffalo Township. From its general indication it was concluded that it was an Indian corn-field. There was no doubt in the minds of the pioneers but that the cultivation was recent, as the ground was still soft and loamy. The name Clearfield, was, therefore, very appropriate, for nothing was further from the minds of the early pioneers than the thought of discovering an arena such as that in the dense and almost impenetrable forests of this portion of the country, and at so early a period.

Patrick MCBRIDE came here in 1798, from Ireland, County Donegal, and settled on a 400-acre tract of land about a half mile east of Coylesville, facing Kittanning Road. When he located upon it not a single stick of timber had been cut. Wild cats were in abundance at the time, and Mr. MCBRIDE often related to his children how common an affair it was for him, while sitting in his cabin door in the evening smoking his pipe, to see bears and wolves pass near by him. For making his settlement on this tract, Mr. MCBRIDE received from the agent, Archie MCCALL, 100 acres. The first year only corn was raised, and that with venison was the only food to be obtained.

Patrick MCBRIDE married a Miss Mary DOUGAN, also a native of the "Emerald Isle." Of nine children, three are still living at an advanced age. Neal is seventy years old. Mrs. DOWNEY is sixty-eight, Sallie, the other sister, now Mrs. Daniel CONVERRY, is about sixty.

Mr. MCBRIDE died in 1848, at an advanced age. He bequeathed his lands and dwellings to Anos [sic] and Catherine (both deceased), Sallie and a Miss MCGINLEY. Neal MCBRIDE's farm was purchased by him from one John FERRY, the price being $4 per acre. Frank P. MCBRIDE, Esq., is living on his father's farm.

James DENNY when thirteen years old emigrated to this country from Donegal, Ireland, in 1793, locating in the southern part of this township, with his parents, in 1803. They also settled a tract of 400 acres, and received a title to his 200 acres from Archie MCCALL. For a few years they obtained a livelihood by working on the farm in the summer and by "packing" salt from over the mountains in the fall and winter. Mr. DENNY was a shoe maker by trade, and during his leisure time he made shoes for his neighbors, and also for sale to merchants. He traded salt to Hugh MCKEE, of Butler, a tanner, for leather. His wife was Mary O'DONNELL, who emigrated from Ireland in 1795. They reared a family of eight children; but five only are now living -- William, Arthur, Daniel, John, Nancy, now Mrs. Philip CYPHER. James DENNY died February 25, 1872, his wife having died July 4, 1835.

Arthur, the second son, occupies the old homestead, with a fine family around him. He is sixty-six years of age.

Michael, son of John MCGINLEY, an early settler in this township, was born on the ocean in 1800, while his parents were on their way to this country from Ireland. Life was so nearly extinct at one time that the captain of the vessel took him in his arms to cast him in the sea, but was prevented by some of the women present. The children of Michael were Mary, Bridget, Ann E., Sarah J., Catherine T., Margaret, Gracie E., Rosynthia, Henrietta, Phioleme, John F. P.

John COYL and his wife, Elizabeth (HANLAN), came to America in 1791, and to Clearfield Township in 1800, and settled on the farm known as the WICK farm, at present owned by Charles DUFFY and others, consisting of a 400-acre tract. He disposed of a large tract of land given him by a Mr. BELL for one horse and a keg of whisky. He made this trade so as to complete a team, he already possessing one horse. Coylesville took its name from him. He was a weaver by trade, and took linen cloth woven by himself to "Mason's Works," in Fayette County, and exchanged it for salt and iron, which he packed home. In order to protect his sheep and hogs from the ravages of the wolves and bears then to be found in great numbers, they were securely penned up each night. His son John, Jr., moved to Donegal Township in 1851, his death occurring in 1866. His wife, Margaret (DAUGHERTY), aged eighty-two years, lives on the old place with her son W. F.

Arthur O'DONNELL, a native of Donegal, Ireland, settled in 1798 near the center of Clearfield Township, and there lived and died. He raised seven children, three of whom were born after the family settled here. Their names were Hannah (DUGAN), Mary (DENNY), Bridget, Sarah (DUFFY), Ann (MCGEE), Arthur and Daniel. Of this family there are three survivors -- Mrs. MCGEE, Clearfield; Mrs. DUFFY, Pittsburgh, and Daniel, Buffalo Township. Arthur lived and died in this township. Daniel, born in 1800, lived here until recently.

Near the beginning of the present century, Connell O'DONNELL emigrated from Ireland, and settled [p.296] in Clearfield Township on the farm now occupied by Joseph LANE. He was a tailor by trade, and made clothes for the settlers for miles around. Finding business dull at home, he sought work in Ohio, and there took the fever and ague, from which he died. He reared eight children. The sons were Hugh, John, Charles, Dennis and James. Of these, Dennis, Oakland Township, is living. The daughters are Bridget, single; Mary (SLATER), Oakland, and Ellen (HENRY), Summit Township.

Marcus MCLAUGHLIN was one of the early settlers. His father and grandfather emigrated from Ireland in 1795, and located east of the mountains first, but finally settled in this township on a tract of 400 acres. Marcus MCLAUGHLIN and his sister, who is eighty years of age, occupy the old farm. Their mother's name was Hannah DAUGHERTY.

In 1838, John SIPE came to Butler County, and located on a farm in Clearfield, for which he paid $8 per acre. His home had been in Armstrong County, where he had operated a grist-mill. His object in coming into the wilderness of this township was to secure for himself a home and also to gratify his natural propensity for hunting. During the first winter he shot seventeen deer, and conveyed them a great distance to sell. His first money, however, was obtained by chopping wood for the Buffalo furnace. There was nothing produced on his farm the first year of his pioneer life, so he found it absolutely necessary to turn his attention to whatever work presented itself in order to obtain the necessaries of life. John SIPE married Margaret STEVENS. They had a very large family, and all are living except two. William SIPE, one of the sons, owns the greater part of the old homestead, which he has occupied for ten years. He has been a prominent man in this township for years, filling several offices of trust.

Daniel HEINEMAN, a native of Germany, who landed in Philadelphia on the 4th of July, 1835, came into this township in 1838. He cleared a part of the farm where Great Belt now is, but did not remain many years to enjoy the fruits of his industry, preferring to move. Henry HEINEMAN, since 1843 a resident of Butler, and his brother Charles are his sons.


John MCDEVITT located on a farm in 1847, which he purchased from MYLERT and CLYMER. After farming a few years, he removed to Kittanning, Armstrong County, but returned again to this township in 1864, and purchased land from Daniel FENNELL, which he has very industriously cultivated since that time. He had established a wholesale and retail grocery and liquor store in Kittanning, and for several years was engaged in the business and prospered, but finally adverse circumstances overtook him, and he was compelled to succumb to fate.

Peter FENNELL, Sr., with his son Peter and two nephews, Daniel and Abram FENNELL, came from Armstrong County in 1856. Mr. FENNELL (father of Peter) purchased 113 acres of land from CLYMER and MYLERT, and afterward transferred the farm to his son. When he settled upon it, it was entirely covered with hazel and thorn bushes, black-jacks and ground oaks, presenting anything but prospect of fertility. Peter FENNELL, Sr., entered the United States service as a soldier September 20, 1864, and remained in the army until the close of the war. He was a member of Company H, Capt. John G. BIPPENS, One Hundred and Ninety-ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. Mr. FENNELL has in his possession an interesting relic in the shape of Luther's translation of the Bible from the original language into German. It was published at Amsterdam in 1704.

James MARTIN is the possessor of a fine farm, which seems to be under a high state of cultivation. Since his location in this township in 1855, he has ranked among the honest and best citizens of Clearfield. His first farm, purchased from MYLERT, the agent and attorney in fact for Archie MCCALL, consisted of 100 acres. To this he added in 1870 101 acres more, purchased of Gen. John N. PURVIANCE and Philip BICKEL, making in all 201 acres. Mr. MARTIN came originally from Ireland, County Down and Province of Ulster. His wife's maiden name was Margaret GRAHAM, of Scotch-Irish parentage. They have reared a very estimable family, some of whom are married. In 1876, Mr. MARTIN erected a fine two-story house at a cost of $2,500. It is very substantial, and reflects credit on the architects who were members of the family.

Charles REILLY, in 1865, removed from Allegheny City, where he had been reared, to this township, and purchased a farm from Barney SHERRIDAN of 130 acres, upon which he has been living for fifteen years. He has cleared forty acres of timber since he took charge of his place, and made other decided improvements. His wife was Ellen CLARK, of Albany, N.Y. Mrs. REILLY was the mother of thirteen children, all boys.

William LEITHOLD was born in this county in the vicinity of Saxonburg. He came to this township in 1870, and purchased a farm of John GALLAHER for $6,640. Mr. LEITHOLD is a superior farmer, and his well-tilled broad acres tells the story of thrift and energy. Since he became the possessor of this farm, he has made many very noticeable improvements. The old lumbering log house has given place to a commodious dwelling, costing $2,000. One year later, in 1877, he replaced his old barn by a new one [p.298] 100 feet long and thirty-eight feet wide. Mr. LEITHOLD married Elizabeth BAUER in 1863. She is the sister of the BAUER brothers, who are known throughout the county as extensive contractors and builders. George LEITHOLD is the father of William. He is the proprietor of the hotel at Delano Station, on the West Pennsylvania Railroad.


Valentine and Henry REIGER, Joseph FLICK, Jacob CRAMER, Hugh MCCREA, George and John SIPE, Burton BIGLER, Henry BAITENBAUGH, Dennis A. DUFF, Dennis MCBRIDE, Neal MCBRIDE, Barney SHERIDAN, Arthur DENNY, Marcus MCLAUGHLIN, Walter LUCAS, Dennis LOGUE, Manasses DOUGAN, William GALLAHER, Simon and Andrew GALLAHER, Abraham FENNELL, Daniel MCMILLAN, John O'DONNELL, Hugh O'DONNELL, John and James MCDEVITT, John MILLIGAN, Joseph OSTERMAN, William O'NEIL, Nicholas REOTT, John STRUBLE, Robert THOMPSON, Mrs. John GREEN.


John SMITH was the first teacher in this part of the country. The schoolhouse was in the eastern part of the township on Andrew DOUGAN's farm, now owned by Manasses DOUGAN, his son. Some of the early pupils were Dennis DOUGAN, Mary DOUGAN, Frank DUFF, Margaret DUFF, Bridget MCLAUGHLIN, Henry MCBRIDE, Enos MCBRIDE, Nancy MCBRIDE, John and James SHERIDAN, John, Thomas and William COYLE and Daniel MCGEE. The school was taught in 1807, and the term was one year. Mr SMITH's compensation was $4. per year for each pupil. However, if there were but two or three in the family, no extra charge was made. Large families subscribed more. The teacher boarded with the pupils, stopping one or two weeks at a time at each house. It was not then customary to pay the tuition until the end of the year, in order to give parents plenty of time to earn some money. During the year, money would be obtained by raising flax and converting it into linen; then taking it a great distance to some large town to sell. In the fall and winter, men would go off to Fayette County and to Harmony, in this county, and obtain employment in the iron works until spring. In this way they not only paid for the education of their children, but purchased necessaries for the family. John WASHINGTON taught the second school. He died at Mr. SHERIDAN's. Other teachers who taught at various times up to the time of of the organization of public schools were Thomas H. COOK, Michael HERRON, Francis MCBRIDE, Daniel MCLAUGHLIN, Benjamin SEDWICK, Manasses BOYLE, James DENNY and BRANDON.

The first public school teachers were Neal MCBRIDE, William DAUGHTERY, Jacob SIPE, Peter FENNELL, George HOOVER and John BEAMER. These teachers and all others in the various townships were examined by three Trustees before the office of Superintendent came into existence. If these Trustees did not feel themselves competent, they designated some person who in their estimation possessed the requisite literary ability. There are some good school buildings in this township to-day, some of which were built very recently. The school property, including grounds, is valued at $3,755.


In the year 1875, and for a few subsequent years, this was a considerable town. Oil had been discovered in paying quantities, and operators began to locate. Robert THOMPSON, now deceased, in order to encourage the building of a town, laid out two acres of ground into town lots, upon which houses were promptly built. For a few years the town flourished, but it finally met the fate of all small towns which depend entirely on the oil business for support and vitality; the oil production began to diminish, and with it the inhabitants of the town. It is to-day but a shadow of its former self, yet about a half-dozen families still reside here. William MCCREA carries on a general and wholesale liquor store.


St. John's Catholic Church. -- The passer-by will involuntarily slacken his pace to view this magnificent edifice and admire its elegant architecture and the pleasant and inviting retreat surrounding it. This edifice was reared in the year 1853. It is ninety feet in length and forty-two feet in breadth, and has a very large seating capacity, and the interior throughout is elegantly finished. Twenty-four years after the church proper was built (in 1877), a gigantic tower, 156 feet in height, was added, at a cost of $3,666, lending to the main building a lofty, handsome and imposing appearance. Although this church building was not erected until the year above mentioned, yet for many years prior to this time services were held from time to time at the various private houses of those in the neighborhood who rejoiced in the Catholic faith, especially upon such holy days as Christmas and Easter Sunday.

Father Joseph CODY's name appears prominently among those who performed these primitive services. Yet it seems there were others who preceded him. The first services were held in the church in the fall of 1853 by Father LARKIN. Remaining but one year, he was succeeded by Rev. William POLLARD, who also remained but one year. Father CHRISTY succeeded him February 17, 1855, and ministered for six years, [p.299] at the termination of which time Rev. Thomas QUINN came in, and officiated for one year. On March 23, 1862, Father DOYLE took charge of the congregation, and ministered to the spiritual wants of the church for eleven years. His successor was Rev. Patrick BROWN, who graduated at St. Vincent's College, Westmoreland County, Penn. Rev. BROWN was born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1823, and emigrated to this country in 1850. A social, genial gentlemen [sic], he finds many warm friends outside the pale of the church, as well as many ardent friends within it.

Methodist Episcopal Church -- The first organization of this church took place in November, 1857, in a building which had been erected on the Peter GRAFF farm by the English Lutheran congregation for union services. Rev. Mr. COOPER organized the first class and preached the first sermon to that denomination. Continuing to peach for two years in this place, he was at the expiration of that time succeeded by Rev. WILKINSON, who remained but one year. He was followed by Daniel RHODES, who preached at irregular intervals. Rev. TIBBLES was then sent by the Conference to the charge, and he remained until the war broke out, when he raised a company and went with it to the scene of carnage. No services were then held in this house until 1881, during which time it had become quite dilapidated. In the year 1879, a temporary house was put up one mile west of the former building, and in it a Sabbath school was inaugurated and maintained for one year, when the society or congregation was re-organized by J.P. MCKEE, of Butler, a local minister, who was instrumental in building up the congregation. In 1881, the original site and building were purchased, and after making some improvements, the house was re-dedicated to the service of God on October 9, 1881, by Rev. MCSWEENEY, of Freeport, Penn., when thirty-five adults and children were baptized.

The congregation now numbers about fifty-one members. Rev. J. ALTSMAN is the present pastor. The Trustees are Daniel MCMILLEN, Abram FENNELL and Joseph BAKER. The Stewards are Peter FENNELL and L. MILLIGAN.

United Presbyterian Church. -- The United Presbyterian Church was organized by Rev. R. G. FERGUSON, assisted by Allen WILSON and Eli BALPH, acting Elders from Butler congregation, July 15, 1878. Members of session were Henry GUMPPER and Louis KREOR and James MARTIN. Trustees were Louis KREOR and Robert THOMPSON.

The building is a plain frame, costing the sum of $1,200. The first members were James MARTIN, SR., and wife, Robert MARTIN, Elizabeth MARTIN, Mary STOPHER, Ellen MARTIN, Maggie MARTIN, James MARTIN, JR., Alexander MCMULLEN and family -- William, Mary, Alexander, Jr., and wife -- Louis KREOR and wife, Henry GUMPPER and wife, Thomas HUMES and wife and Mrs. PATTON. There never has been a settled minister. Rev. CLARK, of Prospect; Rev. BREDIN, of Sunburry; Rev. T. W. YOUNG, of Mount Chestnut; Rev. SHAW, of Mount Holyoke; Rev. COOK, Rev. FERGUSON, of Butler, and Rev. SCOTT ministered to this congregation at various times. This congregation met in the little village of Carbon Centre, and it flourished while the village did, but, as it was composed of a floating population, it began to rapidly decline as the population decreased.


1840, Joseph HENRY; 1840, John GALLAHER: 1845, Joseph HENRY; 1845, James MCCAFFERTY; 1850, John GALLAHER; 1850, James JOHNSON; 1853, James B. KENNEDY; 1854, John MCLAUGHLIN; 1859, John MCLAUGHLIN; 1855, Arthur O'DONNELL; 1860, Bernard SHERIDAN; 1861, John MCLAUGHLIN; 1865, John B. GALLAHER; 1870, Arthur O'DONNELL; 1870, John B. GALLAHER; 1875, W. S. SYPE; 1875, Patrick DONOGHUE; 1880, Francis P. MCBRIDE; 1880, W. S. SIPE.


[1] -- Butler County was formed from Allegheny County in 1800, while Allegheny County was formed from Westmoreland in 1788. Clearfield Twp. and Donegal Twp. were both created in 1804 from Buffalo Twp. (Butler County Quarter Sesssions Docket, Nov. 1804.) The last reduction of Clearfield occurred in 1854 when the dimensions of the township was reduced from about nine miles square to about five miles square. Portions of the township became parts of the the new townships of Winfield, Jefferson, Summit, and Oakland Twps as well as the pre-existing Donegal Twp mentioned above.

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Chapter 30--Jefferson Township
Chapter 32--Summit Township
1883 Butler County History Contents
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Edited 25 Nov 1999, 17:10