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History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1883-43

History of Butler County Pennsylvania - 1883

Chapter 43 -- Mercer Township

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Transcribed by Donna Mohney. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.



Illustrations And Biographies In Chapter XXXIX

p.396a-- W.P. & Mrs. Braham
p.402 -- W.P. Braham Bio
p.402a-- John and Mrs. Say
p.402a-- John Say Bio



[p. 396]


Mercer is now the smallest township in Butler County. A large part of its former territory was taken to form Marion Township in 1854.

The township is rich in agricultural resources, and its coal interests are important. Great improvements in the general appearance of farms and farm buildings have been made during the last decade, and the work is still being carried forward in a manner which reflects creditably upon the industry, thrift and good taste of the citizens. Could one of the pioneers of 1796 or 1797 now revisit the scenes of his former hardships, he would find it difficult to realize that such a wondrous transformation could be wrought in a period of less than ninety years.

Who first made a settlement in this township it is impossible to say. The sketches that follow give account of a number of the settlers of 1797, and others of later date, who bore the burden and heat of the day in order to secure for themselves and their posterity the blessings of home and property. Detailed accounts of their difficult experiences are unnecessary. Suffice it to say that all bore their parts manfully, and deserve the grateful remembrance of posterity. Nearly all of the pioneers were poor, and the obstacles which they were obliged to overcome were such as were well calculated to call forth every generous impulse, encourage industrious labor, and promote neighborly kindness. Doubtless the old settlers resembled much more than we of to-day a community of "brethren dwelling together in unity."

Robert REED, afterward known as Col. REED, came from Cumberland County in 1797, and settled on the first farm south of Harrisville; he moved his family, consisting of his wife and three children, in a two-wheeled cart drawn by one horse. Two men came with him, driving seven head of cattle. On their way, the family stopped at Pittsburgh, where a son was born. On their arrival here, they had no house to shelter them, and there was snow upon the ground. A shanty of poles and bark was put up hastily, which served as a dwelling until a cabin could be built. Mr. REED had but 25 cents in money left. There was then but one settler between REED's farm and Franklin, and he lived seven miles north on what is now the Franklin road. Col. REED opened a tavern in 1797, which was probably the first in Butler County, and the first on the Franklin road north of Pittsburgh; he continued the business successfully many years. At first he obtained all of his supplies [p.397] from Pittsburgh, bringing flour on horseback; he also brought whisky in ten gallon kegs in the same way. One spring he took three horses to Pittsburgh to bring back a supply of oats for sowing; he obtained twenty-one bushels, loaded them on the backs of his horses and came back as far as the Connoquenessing, when he found the creek so high that it was impossible to ford it. Here he was delayed several days. Meantime other travelers had arrived at the creek, and REED's supply of oats was nearly used up in feeding their horses. When he arrived at his home, he had only a sufficient quantity to give his horses one feed. But during his absence his wife had taken in enough money from guests at the tavern, so that he was able to start back to Pittsburgh the following day and purchase another load.

Col. REED kept dogs and hunted deer, bear and turkeys. For some time after his arrival, he supplied his house with meat solely from the results of the chase; he was once out without his gun and found a deer asleep in the grass; he crept up to the animal silently, and caught it by the hind legs. An instant later he found himself stretched at full length upon the ground, the skin torn from his hands, while the deer was bounding away into the woods. Mr. REED served several years as a Colonel of militia. During the last thirty years of his life, he gave up tavern keeping; he died in 1849, aged seventy-eight years. The children of Robert and Rachael (MCCLINTOCK) REED were Anna (BELL), Sarah (WALKER), now Mrs. WADDLE, John Robert, Rachel (HOSACK), Jane (MORRISON), David, Hugh, Nancy (OSBORN), Wilson, Elliott, and Samuel. Sarah, Rachel, Jane, Nancy, Hugh and Elliott are still living, the oldest being now eighty-seven, and the youngest sixty-nine.

The Franklin trail was the earliest traveled route from Pittsburgh to the lakes. It had been an Indian trail long before the whites came to this part of the country, and Indians continued to transverse it after the country became settled. They frequently encamped along the path, having their squaws along, and engaged in hunting. Indians often stopped at REED's tavern while he was absent packing goods from Pittsburgh. A year or two before this part of Butler County was settled, a white man named POWERS was shot by an Indian at White Oak Spring, a short distance north of Harrisville, in the edge of Venango County. The settlers, however, were never disturbed by them, and after the Mohawk murder, in 1843, the Indians ceased to travel the Franklin Road. Mrs. WADDLE, of Harrisville, is one of the few persons now living who remembers having seen old CORNPLANTER and his son SILVER HEELS. The latter was dwarfed and deformed.

Maj. John WELSH, an Irishman and a land jobber, lived about half a mile east of Harrisville. He settled about 1797. He kept a tavern for years, and was one of the pioneer schoolmasters. Though one of the wealthiest of the early settlers, he was reduced to poverty, and died a beggar.

Thomas Dean settled on a tract adjoining WELSH's farm, about 1797. He sold to James READ, an Irishman, who lived and died on the place. James HARTLEY lived on the HARRIS farm, and made the first improvement there in 1798. He died in 1802, and was buried in the old graveyard east of the borough. The first person buried in that spot was the mother of William BUCHANAN, who lived in Mercer County. The second was Fanny WHITE, and the third, Jane MCDONALD.

Ebenezer BEATTY settled southwest of Harrisville, in 1797. His sons, David, Henry, John and Thomas, died in this county. Two other sons went West.

Jacob SMITH, about 1800, settled on the farm south of Colonel REEDS. His wife died here. He afterward married again, then left here and went to New Orleans. Nothing further was ever heard of him.

Francis WILSON was an early settler in the western part of the township. William BARNES, an Irishman, who moved here from Conococheague, was an early settler a mile and a half southwest of Harrisville. He reared a large family, all of whom attained a ripe old age, and one of them, Samuel, died when upward of ninety. His children were Samuel, John, William, James, Alexander, Thomas, Robert and Jane.

Adam FUNK was an early settler on the PORTER farm, where he kept tavern several years. He moved to Butler. James SHIELDS came from Cumberland County in 1798, and located where the BLOCKS are now. He died on the place an aged man.

Ebenezer BROWN came from Huntingdon County in 1797, and settled on a 400-acre tract. He also bought 240 acres, on which his brother James settled several years later. Ebenezer married here Alice PORTER, daughter of Samuel PORTER, one of the early settlers. James married a sister, Jane PORTER. Ebenezer died in 1831. His children-Jane, Alexander, William P., Samuel, James, John, Alice, Ebenezer and Joseph - are now living, with the exception of Jane, John, Alice and Ebenezer. James BROWN was the father of seventeen children. His sons, Ebenezer and Alexander, inherited the old homestead, upon which Alexander's and Ebenezer's widows are still living. The PORTER family, consisting of the father and his sons Samuel, James and Andrew, and several daughters, were early settlers in the southeastern part of the township. Andrew and Samuel moved to Ohio. James died on the place where his father settled.

James SHIELDS was one of the first settlers and lived on the farm afterward owned by William White. [p.398] Zelotus JEWELL, whose farm was at the corner of Venango and Butler Counties, was also an early settler. After he died, his widow married Stephen ROWLAND. James DUNLAP, Thomas DUNLAP, John and Henry EVANS, were early settlers in the same neighborhood.

William GILL, a native of County Down, Ireland, came to this county in 1778, and served in the army during the Revolutionary war. He was under Gen. WAYNE at the battle of Paoli, where WAYNE's army was surprised and defeated. GILL was wounded in this battle, crawled into a hollow log, and lay until the British left the field. He got well, and served until the end of the war. He married Elizabeth LEAPER in Alleghany County, and resided in that county until 1802, when he settled on Wolf Creek in Mercer County, where he encountered the usual experiences of pioneers. He was one of the founders of Harmony Church, and is buried in its cemetery. He reared seven sons and six daughters. After the family settled on Wolf Creek, one of the sons, Hugh GILL, purchased a tract of 200 acres, which is now in Mercer Township, Butler County. He married Anne ANDERSON in Mercer County, and was the father of six children, of whom five are still living. He died in 1866. His son Hugh still lives upon the old homestead in this township.

In 1819, Alexander SEATON, whose father settled in Marion Township in 1800, bought of Alexander DONAGHY the farm on which he now lives. In 1828, Mr. SEATON built a grist mill, which, having been three times rebuilt, is still in operation. It is now run by his son Abner. He built a saw-mill in 1825. He also built a carding and fulling mill later, which he operated for eight years. Mr. SEATON has been a resident of Butler County from its organization eighty-two years ago. He was born in Huntingdon County in 1794, and is very active for a man of his age.

About 1820, John JOHNSTON and family emigrated from Ireland to this county, and settled near Harrisville. Two of his sons are now living on the old homestead. The children of John and Mary JOHNSTON were Joseph, Alexander, Mary J. (MARTIN), William, John W. and Margaret A. (RAY), all living except the last one mentioned. John JOHNSTON died in 1867, at the age of seventy-eight.

Charles COCHRAN came from what is now Cochranton, Crawford County, in 1825, and with his wife and one child began operations in the woods on the farm which he now occupies. Mr. COCHRAN served as Justice of the Peace ten years, and for sixteen years he was Captain of a company known as the Slippery Rock Light Infantry. He is the father of nine children. Six daughters and one son are still living. Mr. COCHRAN says that when he came to this county, everything was in an exceedingly primitive conditions. Wild game abounded, and he once killed a wild turkey that weighed forty-two pounds. Cattle and hogs ran in the woods, and often became almost as wild as the bears and wolves about them. The cattle which fed in the swamp east of Mr. COCHRAN's farm sometimes got imbedded in the mire, and lost their lives. Bears frequented the vicinity of the streams, and exhibited a great fondness for wild cherries. They would climb the cherry-trees, and break all the branches they could reach, and then sit and pick off the cherries.

Samuel BRAHAM, originally from Ireland, moved to this township from New Castle in 1834, and purchased a farm at $8 per acre. The same farm is now owned by the Mercer Mining Company, who purchased it in 1872, at $100 per acre. The farm was settled by William AGNEW, and Mr. BRAHAM purchased it from his administrator. At that time it was slightly improved, having about thirty acres cleared and a log house and log barn upon it. Log buildings were then well-nigh universal in the country and very common in villages. Mr. BRAHAM died in 1874, at the age of eighty-five. Samuel and Mary Ann (PATTON) BRAHAM were the parents of sixteen children, eleven of whom reached mature years, viz., Hugh, William P., Agnes (BEATTY), Jane (DUGAN), Samuel, Mary A., Eliza (SNYDER), Margaret (Mifflin), Sarah A. (KIRKPATRICK), Belle and Asenath (MCCLEARY); Jane, Samuel, Mary A., and Sarah A. are dead. Hon. W. P. BRAHAM, of Harrisville, was ten years of age when he came to this county, and has witnessed the almost miraculous changes wrought by man's labor during the past half century, which have transformed the almost primitive wilderness to a region almost as fair as any that the sun shines upon. He was elected a member of the State Legislature in 1880, and a candidate for re-election in 1882.


The site of this now attractive and thriving borough, as the early settlers beheld it, was a piece of low, swampy ground, treeless, and covered with tall grass. There were many pools in which water stood throughout the year. The land on which Harrisville stands was known as the "prairie tract." A part of it had been utilized by the Indians as a corn-field.

The first cabin erected within the limits of the town proper, was built about 1800, by a man known as Old Zeke BREDIN. He was a blacksmith and followed his trade here some years. His house stood north near the center of the town.

Ephraim HARRIS started a store in 1804, and a few years later, Henry EVANS opened a tavern. EVANS quit the business before the town was laid out, and his log house was sold to HARRIS. [p.399]

Ephraim HARRIS, the founder of Harrisville, came to the HARRIS farm in 1804, from Franklin County. He and John EVANS made the settlement of the tract in partnership. EVANS lived on a part of the tract, and once had a store there. HARRIS began keeping store in 1804, and continued the business until his death in 1825. All of his sons were merchants at various periods of their lives. His store was in a room of his log house. He hauled his goods from Pittsburgh in a one-horse wagon. Mrs. HARRIS had a fine carpet--the first one ever seen in the settlement-- and it was a great curiousity. One day a German, Frederick KEIFER, came in and it was observed that he stepped very daintily around the edge of the room, and seemed trying to avoid stepping on the carpet. On being asked to come forward, and take a seat, he said to Mrs. HARRIS that he was afraid he should soil her blanket! HARRIS' old store stood on or near the spot where Luther BRAHAM's house now is. Mr. HARRIS, as might be conjectured, did not carry a large stock of goods. It is said that he never would sell more than two pounds of coffee at a time, for the reason that he wished to keep on hand enough to supply other customers. Ephraim and Hannah (ELLIOTT) HARRIS were the parents of fourteen children, twelve of whom reached mature years, viz.: Samuel, Frances, Rebecca (WADDLE), Eliza (ADAMS), Juliet (WATERS), John R., James, Ephraim, Sarah (DE WOLF), Maria (FORKER), Amelia (PARKER), and Anna. But one of this family survives- Mrs. Amelia PARKER, of Parker City. Maj. John R., Ephraim and Samuel resided permanently in Harrisville. James lived some years on the old homestead, then went West. Maj. HARRIS started a carding mill east of the town, which he ran four years. He then removed to Harrisville and was a merchant and hotel-keeper until his death, in 1874. His widow, Mrs. Maria (BLACK) HARRIS is still a resident of the borough. Maj. HARRIS began his career as a merchant in 1827, in a building (afterward burned) which stood where the KERR House now is. His brother, Ephraim, was in partnership with him several years. Maj. HARRIS was a man of prominence and influence. He was a Major of militia and served three terms as Representative to the Legislature and three terms as State Senator.

Robert WALKER moved to the present site of Harrisville in 1816. He was a millwright by trade, and came here from Slippery Rock Township. He died in 1839, aged fifty-nine years. His widow (nee Sarah REED, now Mrs. WADDLE), is still living, and has resided in the township longer than any other person. Her children are John, Robert R., Cynthia M. (MARTIN), James H., O. Perry and Angeline (RIDDLE), all living but Mrs. MARTIN. The second son, Robert R. WALKER, Esq., born in 1818, is now the oldest native resident of Harrisville Borough.

The town was laid out in 1825, and the first sale of lots was made by Ephraim HARRIS on the 11th of April. That portion of the borough extending south of R. BLACK's store, was laid out in 1833 on the farm of Col. Robert REED, and at first was known as Reedsville.

After the town was laid out, James LEE purchased a lot and erected a frame house, in which he started a store. In 1830, LEE sold his store to Jonathon MCMILLAN, who continued the business several years, with James KERR as his clerk.

Samuel E. HARRIS and William STANLEY next built houses in the village.

Hon. James KERR, now one of the oldest citizens of Harrisville, recalls the following names of residents of the place in 1830: Thomas MCELREE, cabinetmaker; James and William FORKER, hatters; Samuel E. HARRIS, merchant; Washington PARKER, had a store then, or soon after; William H. MCGILL, father of James MCGILL, now a blacksmith in the town, had a shop a mile and one-fourth south; John CALDWELL, and ex-sailor, then a laborer, and William STANLEY, laborer, resided in Harrisville. Maj. HARRIS kept tavern in a frame house on the next lot south of the spot where BROWN's drug store now is, and Jonathan MCMILLAN kept store in a frame house. The other buildings were all log structures.

As there was formerly a great deal of travel on the Franklin road, tavern-keeping was long a very flourishing business in Harrisville. Samuel E. HARRIS and William WADDLE, brothers-in-law, carried on the business a number of years. At one time there were four taverns in the village, and there was considerable rivalry between the landlords to obtain the patronage of the militia on training days. There were 10 distilleries within three miles of Harrisville. Whisky sold at a shilling a quart or 25 cents per gallon by the barrel. Josiah HARDY was one of the shrewdest of the tavern-keepers, and resorted to various expedients to obtain custom. One day he induced the Captain of a training company to halt his men at noon in front of his door, and just at the very moment the halt was made, rang the dinner bell. Of course his patronage was large that day. HARDY became a Methodist, and when asked if he thought whiskey-selling was consistent with his profession, acknowledged that he thought it took a great deal of grace to attend to both business and religion rightly! Besides HARDY, Maj. HARRIS, John DOUGHERTY and John KERR, kept tavern at the same time.

In 1833, two brick houses were erected by John [p.400] MCCOY and Washington PARKER. William P. BROWN began business as a cabinet-maker and furniture dealer in 1834, on the same spot where his establishment is now. The first building he erected was torn down, and the present one built in 1851. About 1845, GILMER & SHOFFER established a foundry. Since 1866, it has been owned by BINGHAM & Son, of Centreville. The town advanced far more rapidly than is usual with country villages. By 1847, it had become sufficiently large so that it was deemed expedient that a borough government be organized; this was done, and Dr. Lyman L. HOWARD was elected burgess. In the borough there are now four general stores, two drug stores, one hotel, two livery stables, one general notion store, one tailor shop, three millinery stores, two shoe-maker shops, four blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, one furniture store, one hardware and tin-shop, BINGHAM's foundry, KERR & WALKER's mill, etc. In 1870, the town had a population of 545; in 1880, 544. Harrisville wears an air of neatness and quiet, which renders it a very pleasant spot in which to live.

At what date the post office was established we are unable to learn. Judge KERR, when a mere boy, carried the mail twice a week from Mount Etna Furnace where there was a post office, through to Franklin, going on horseback. This was about 1826. There was then a post office at Harrisville, and Samuel E. HARRIS was Postmaster.

KERR & WALKER's grist-mill was erected in 1881-82. It is a three-story building, 32X50 feet, provided with the best machinery, and contains four runs of buhrs.

The largest fire in Harrisville occurred June 6, 1872, when William KIRKPATRICK's two-story dwelling and Samuel KERR's hotel were destroyed. These buildings stood on the east side of Main street.


Hon. James KERR and his brother Samuel are among the oldest residents of Harrisville. Judge KERR was engaged in the mercantile business from 1840 until about four years ago. From 1837 to 1840, he was a contractor on the canal. He has served twenty years as Justice of the Peace; was elected Associate Judge in 1861, and State Senator in 1868. Samuel KERR has been proprietor of a well-kept hotel in this place several years.

Thompson KYLE, of Harrisville, farmer and coal operator, is a native of Ireland. He settled in this place in 1845, and was one of the pioneers in developing the coal resources of Butler County.

J. E. CURRY, who was Postmaster at Harrisville for eight years, came to this place in 1850. He followed the business of manufacturing and dealing in furniture until 1860, and since that time has been keeping a general notion store. The building he now occupies was built by him in 1868.

T. W. MORROW came from West Virginia to Harrisville in 1860, and entered into partnership with J. R. HARRIS in a general merchandise store, under the firm name of HARRIS & MORROW. After the death of Maj. HARRIS, he formed a partnership with H. C. BLACK, and continued the business until 1877, when he sold his interest to BLACK. In 1879, he bought out A.B. PATTON, and since that time has been engaged in the drug business.

G. W. MAGEE came to this town from Mercer County in 1860, and established a carriage-shop, in which he still continues business.


1847, William A. GILMER; 1850, Robert LONG; 1852, James KERR; 1855, George B. WILLIAMSON; 1857, Robert LONG; 1858, William A. GILMER; 1859, Robert R. WALKER; 1860, Thompson KYLE; 1864, R. R. WALKER; 1865, John BLACK; 1869, J. R. SNYDER; 1870, John BLACK; 1874, J. R. SNYDER; 1875, James MCGILL; 1876, C. M. BROWN; 1877, C. M. BROWN; 1880, James MCGILL; 1880, W. H. ORR; 1882, J. M. ELRICK.


Presbyterian.-- In the "History of the Presbytery of Erie," the following sketch of the Harrisville Presbyterian Church is given:

"The organization took place in 1807; it first appears on the minutes in 1808. It is sometimes called West Unity. The first pastor was Rev. Cyrus RIGGS, installed April 6, 1814; released April 2, 1834. The next pastor was Rev. John R. AGNEW, installed April 3, 1838; released October 21, 1845 or 1846; Rev. John MOORE was pastor from 1847 to 1849; Rev. Meade SATTERFIELD, son of Rev. James SATTERFIELD, one of the original members of the Presbytery, was pastor from 1850 to the time of his death, a period of six years. He was succeeded by Rev. J. F. BOYD, who was installed in 1856; released June 26, 1866; Rev. W. D. PATTON was installed in 1866."

From other sources we have the following additional information: Since Rev. PATTON left, about five years ago, there have been only supplies. Among the earliest preachers in the neighborhood were Revs. Samuel TAIT and Robert LEE. The first meeting place was a tent at Rocky Springs. Then the place changed to "the prairie" where Harrisville now is. During the war of 1812, while the soldiers were on their way to Erie, Rev. TAIT preached to them in a tent one Sunday, and people from fifteen miles around were present. Afterward [p.401] a log house was erected, in which the congregation sat upon the sleepers. This was abandoned after a few years, and West Unity Church erected. In 1834, Rev. Robert JOHNSON officiating at West Unity, made an effort to "unionize" the church, and an Associate Reformed congregation was founded. The Presbyterian portion of the congregation changed their place of worship to Harrisville, and in 1837, erected a church. The church was very strong in numbers for some years, but of late dissensions and removals have greatly reduced the membership.

Harrisville Methodist Episcopal Church.-- A Methodist class of twelve members was formed about 1833. Among the members were Robert and Sarah WALKER, William H. MCGILL and wife, John MCCONNELL and wife, Robert KNOWLTON and wife and Abner GILL and wife. Revs. CARL, DAVIS and HALLOCK were among the first ministers. Services were generally held in the schoolhouse, though sometimes at private houses. In the fall of 1842, a substantial church edifice was completed. The present membership is eighty-eight. The church once numbered over two hundred, but has decreased greatly on account of removals. Seventy members of this church went west in one year (1869).


Knights of Honor.-- Harrisville Lodge, No. 2397, K. of H., was instituted March 21, 1881, with thirty-one charter members. Membership in October, 1882, thirty-two.

Grand Army.-- Z. C. MCQUILLEN Post, No. 246, G. A. R., was organized May 12, 1882, with sixteen charter members. Present membership, twenty-three.


The first schoolhouse in the township was built just at the boundary line of the borough of Harrisville, about the year 1800. Wright ELLIOTT, a brother of Mrs. HARRIS, was the first teacher. Another early schoolhouse stood near where the old log church was built. Among the early teachers were James HARDY (an old man who taught many years), Master O'HARA and David C. CUNNINGHAM.

The first schoolhouse in Harrisville was a frame building erected in 1830. Samuel E. HARRIS taught the first term. Judge KERR taught there in 1833. Chauncey HAMILTON taught several years. Harrisville now has a good school building and a well-conducted school, in two grades.


Harmony congregation was at first called Boiling Spring, and in connection with Coal Spring, Mercer County, and Scrubgrass, now called East Unity, constituted one pastoral charge. The name was changed shortly after the organization was effected. This congregation was organized in connection with the Associate Presbyterian or Seceder Church, and it remained in that connection until the Union of the Associate and Associate Reformed Churches in 1858, which gave birth to the United Presbyterian Church. Harmony congregation was organized by the Presbytery of Chartiers. The first services were held in 1800, and it is probable that a congregation was organized that year or the year following. In 1805, Coal Spring was separated from the two other churches mentioned, which during the first pastorates formed one charge. In 1808, the congregation was placed under the Ohio Presbytery, and so remained until 1835, when it came under the Shenango Presbytery. Since 1858, it has belonged to the United Presbytery of Butler.

Thomas MATTHEWS, William GILL, John ATWELL and Alexander WHITE were probably the first ruling Elders. Later, Thomas MCELREE, Samuel CROSS, John MATTHEWS, Samuel G. WHITE and David BEATTY held that office. John MATTHEWS, Ebenezer BEATTY and William BUCHANAN were the first trustees and were elected in 803. The property for church site and graveyard was purchased from Thomas MCCOY in 1807, for $12. The lot includes four acres.

Rev. Thomas MCCLINTOCK, the first pastor, began his labors in 1803 and served most acceptably until his death, in 1832. In 1835, Rev. William POLLOCK was installed pastor of the united congregations of Harmony and Unity, Rev. Alexander BOYD preaching the sermon on the 27th of May. His pastorate ended in 1852. The present pastor of Harmony, Rev. Samuel KERR, D. D., was installed February 8, 1853; sermon on that occasion by Rev. Alexander BOYD. The church then numbered 160 members. Its present membership is 285. The Sabbath school has 250 members.

The first church erected was a small log cabin. Preaching was held in it in winter, and in a tent in summer. The next house of worship was a larger log structure. The present house, a substantial frame building, 50X60 feet, was built in 1836.


* Though this matter properly belongs in several townships, it is inserted here to avoid separating that which should be connected.

In 1868, Benjamin NIBLOCK, of Youngstown, Ohio, James M. BREDIN, then of Butler, now of Franklin, and Thompson KYLE of Harrisville, under the name of NIBLOCK, BREDIN, & KYLE, made leases of coal lands in this county, proposing to develop the coal fields largely. They secured leases of some fifty thousand acres of land lying in Pine Township, Mercer County, Irvin Township, Venango County, and in the townships of Mercer, Marion, Venango, Allegheny, Parker, Washington, and Cherry, Butler County. These [p.402] lands were leased for the consideration of ten cents per ton of coal to their owners, which is the price generally paid to-day, Mr. KYLE, W. P. BRAHAM and others having leased coal lands at this price during the present year.

This enterprise was undertaken on the supposition that the so-called Harrisville vein of coal (a four -foot vein) was the principal mining vein. But on investigation, in Bull Valley, in Cherry Township, a second vein of good mining coal, five and one-half to six feet in thickness, was discovered, lying immediately below the limestone. This was known as the BURNETT vein, from its discoverer. In the same valley, a third vein, which has not yet been mentioned in geological reports, was found forty feet below the second or BURNETT vein. This is known as the Slope vein, and is the best vein in the valley. The BURNETT vein was afterward discovered at Pardoe, and in 1880, at Pine Grove. It has now been tested to a point within two miles of Harrisville.

The Bull Valley coal is generally conceded to be of the best quality for coking. The Slope vein is not much known outside of this valley. It is believed that it extends through a tract at least five or six miles square. Two slopes are already open touching it, and mining operations are being pushed every day. From BURNETT mines, a three-mile branch railroad, running north and east, is now completed, and another running south to the Judge MCJUNKIN farm, in Bull Valley. Mr. BURNETT, who has been developing these mines for several years, has sold out to a Philadelphia company, which has now leased a large quantity of land, and surveyed a railroad from New Castle to Annandale Station. The coal deposits are believed to be sufficient for the mining operations to endure scores of years. A large extent of the Harrisville vein yet remains untouched, and offers an encouraging field for future operations.

Soon after the first leases were made, NIBLOCK, BREDIN & KYLE became associated with a number of capitalists, among whom were Messrs. WICK, WELLS and others, of Youngstown; Messrs. SHYROCK, REYNOLDS and GILL, of Meadville; CUNARD and MCHENRY, of London; JACKSON of New York, and others, who compose the Mercer Mining & Manufacturing Company. This company built the Shenango & Allegheny Railroad in 1868-69, and now operate it. Their principal mines are at Pardoe, Mercer County, at Harrisville and New Hope. At Harrisville, from 200 to 300 tons of coal are being mined daily, and about the same quantity at Pardoe.


Forestville, commonly known as "The Blocks," is a small mining village, near the line of the S. & A. Railroad, which has sprung up since the coal mines were opened. It contains a post office, two stores and a varying population.

Maj. W. C. BRYSON, who has been engaged in the mercantile business in Forestville since 1875, is a native of Connoquenessing Township, where he lived on a farm from his birth, in 1814, until 1865. He then removed to Prospect and engaged in keeping a store. In 1866, he went to West Sunbury, where he continued the same business until he came to Forestville. While in Sunbury, Maj. BRYSON was for a long time the only Democratic voter in the borough. He has held the office of Justice of the Peace and been a candidate for Representative, Associate Judge and County Commissioner. His store and house were burned in 1881, but were immediately rebuilt.


Mercer Township.-- 1840, John MURRIN; 1840, James KERR; 1845, John BLACK; 1845, William RUSSELL; 1847, James SEATON; 1850, James PORTER; 1852, Alexander SEATON; 1854, Wm. H. MCGILL; 1857, Hugh BRAHAM; 1859, Charles COCHRAN; 1862, Hugh BRAHAM; 1864, Alexander SEATON; 1867, Charles COCHRAN; 1869, Alexander SEATON; 1872, John ELDER; 1875, James MCFADDEN; 1877, T. D. KELLY; 1882, Joseph BROWN.



Hugh BRAHAM emigrated from Ireland to America in 1791 and settled near Lewistown, Penn. His son Samuel was born in Ireland in 1789, and came to this country with his parents. From their first location, the family removed to Mercer County, in 1807, settling near New Castle, in what is now Lawrence County. Samuel BRAHAM married Mary Ann PATTON and reared a large family, which is elsewhere mentioned.

William P., the son of Samuel and Mary Ann BRAHAM, was born in Hickory Township, Mercer County (now Lawrence), Penn., on the 6th of January, 1824, and came to Butler with his parents in 1834. His father followed farming, and William remained at home, assisting him in his work and obtaining an education, until 1845. He then married Nancy Rebecca, daughter of Philip and Deborah SNYDER, who were early settlers of Slippery Rock Township, and the following year moved to Connoquenessing Township. Mr BRAHAM began life under the most adverse conditions and circumstances, which might well have discouraged a less resolute man. [p.403]

When he went to Connoquenessing Township, his worldly possessions consisted of a total of one horse, one cow, six sheep and 52 cents. He moved his wife and child into a log house on the farm of Israel GIBSON and began farming on shares. His first year's crops were a failure. By dint of much perseverance and hard labor, he had succeeded in sowing thirty acres of wheat; and on account of the ravages of the fly, the entire field did not yield a single bushel. In the succeeding winter, Mr. BRAHAM engaged in threshing with a flail, for every tenth bushel, also in day labor, for which he received 31 cents per day. In the spring of 1847, he moved to a log cabin on the farm of Alexander GRAHAM, where he remained two years. During the three years which he spent in Connoquenessing Township, notwithstanding various disadvantages, Mr. BRAHAM managed to save about $200. This sum he had earned principally by making rails at 40 cents per hundred, by clearing and other kinds of day labor, at from 30 to 50 cents per day. The road from poverty to success is beset with difficulties, but the man who has business ability, sound judgement and persistence rarely falls. Mr. BRAHAM's career is a striking exemplification of this truth. In the spring of 1849, he invested his small capital in land, purchasing the first farm he ever owned from Ebenezer BEATTY, in Mercer Township. Removing to the farm the same spring, he engaged in farming and dealing in cattle. He continued in this business until 1872, driving cattle from New York State in the spring and to Eastern Pennsylvania in the fall of each year. During the war, he dealt quite extensively in wool and horses, and contributed largely of his means to the war in suppressing the rebellion. Finding the stock business dull, in 1872, he closed it up and began dealing in oil and coal lands, which he continued for several years. His real estate now consists of 1,000 acres of land. In 1880, Mr. BRAHAM was elected a Representative to the State Legislature and served during the sessions of 1881-82. That independence of character for which he is noted was strikingly evinced in the election of United States Senator in 1881. While the Senator from his district and his colleague in the House went into caucus with the majority, he being of the opinion that, under the then existing condition of things, it was not for the best interests of the Republican party or welfare of the State, and that he might more effectually carry out the will of his constituents in electing the best man for the office, he, with fifty-five others, Senators and members, declined to go into caucus on the election for a candidate for United States Senator. This action was heartily indorsed by a large majority of his constituents, and gained him many warm friends. In politics, he is a strong Republican, and has been identified with the party from its origin. A rigid abolitionist, his first vote for President was cast for Martin VAN BUREN. In 1852, he voted for HALE, and in 1856, for John C. FREMONT. MR BRAHAM was brought up in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and connected himself with that organization in 1845, under the pastorate of Rev. Josiah HUTCHMAN. He continued a member of that church until 1870, when he united with the Presbyterian Church of Harrisville, of which he was soon afterward elected an Elder. He has always contributed largely toward the support of the Gospel, and all other branches of church work. Mr BRAHAM is a public-spirited progressive man, and a friend to every good work. His family consists of his wife, Nancy Rebecca, born July 29, 1825, and eleven children:

Philip Melancthon, born 1846, died 1855; Mary Anne, born 1847, married W. H. ORR, 1871; Deborah Jane, born 1849, married John ORR, 1870; Samuel Luther, born 1851, married Martha Louise COCHRAN, 1872; Sarah Jemima, born 1853, married D. J. WASHABAUGH, M. D., 1875; Hannah Isabelle, born 1855, married A. M. DAVIS, M. D., 1875; Nancy Rebecca, born 1858, married W. E. BROWN, 1877; Margaret Angenetta, born 1860, died 1863; William Patton, born 1863, died 1865; Charles Sumner, born 1866, died 1866; Ida May, born 1867, resides with her parents in Harrisville.


Among the pioneers of Parker Township was John SAY, the father of the immediate subject of this biography. He came from Mifflin County, and obtained, by "settler's right," a tract of land in Parker Township, on which he made permanent settlement in about the year 1800. Previous to this date, he had married Miss Sarah MARTIN, of Westmoreland County. They reared a family of four children--three boys and one girl. John was the eldest of the family, and was born on the farm adjoining that on which he now resides, January 26, 1811. The elder SAY was a medium-sized man--pleasant and affable in his manner--and universally esteemed. He was a successful farmer, and acquired a fine competency. He died November 15, 1859, at the age of seventy-four years. His wife survived him until 1864, when she deceased at the age of ninety-two.

The life of Mr. SAY has been comparatively uneventful. He stayed with his father until he was twenty-five years of age, at which time he was married to Miss Sarah FLETCHER. She was born in Parker Township, and was two years his junior. She died in 1852. She was the mother of six children, only two of whom are living-- Hamilton, in Armstrong County, and Perry, of Mercer County. In 1855, Mr. SAY was again married to the widow of Isaac E. MARTIN, nee Hannah FLEMMING. She was born in Parker Township June 10, 1827. Hugh FLEMMING, her father, was one of the pioneers of the county. He was a man of local prominence, and highly respected.

By this union, there have been four children--Matilda F., now Mrs. W. J. BUTLER; Edgar F., George M. and Belle S. Mr. Say is considered to be one of the successful progressive farmers of the county. His farm now comprises 200 acres of productive land, being within the oil belt. Twenty-four wells have been drilled on his farm, some of which are producing at this time.

In his religious and political proclivities, he is a Presbyterian and a Republican, and a gentleman, whose identification with any community is always productive of good.

[End of Chapter 43--Mercer Township: History of Butler County, Pennsylvania. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Waterman, Watkins, & Co., Chicago, 1883.]

Chapter 42--Slippery Rock Township
Chapter 44--Parker Township
1883 Butler County History Contents
Butler County Pennsylvania USGenWeb Homepage

Edited 09 Mar 2000, 17:49