History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1895x42

History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1895

Donegal Township, Chapter 42

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Transcribed by Jim Wise. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.
Link to a sketch of Donegal Township from the Atlas of Butler County, G.M. Hopkins & Co., 1874.

Surnames in this chapter are:




[p. 505]

The original township of Donegal was erected in 1804, out of the original Buffalo township. On November 11, 1846, Matthew DUGAN, William McCAFFERTY and James DUNLAP were appointed to change the lines of this and the new township of Fairview. In the general re-subdivision of 1854, Donegal township was reduced to its present area. It is one of the oldest settled townships of the county, and was a banner farming district until it became part of the famous oil field of this locality. With the exception of the valley of the Big Buffalo and its feeders, its conformation belongs to that known as the Lower Barren Measures. The elevation at or near St. Joe is 1,430 feet above ocean level, or 857 above the level of Lake Erie, and all lands not in the valleys approach the 1,400 feet level. A good quality of fire clay is found in several places, with kaolin and other commercial clays and rocks. In the neighborhood of Millerstown, west and south, outcrops tell of the presence of Brush Creek coal, particularly in the FORQUER and CONWAY mines, where the dip is northerly. The Upper Freeport coal, though generally poor, laminated stuff, was found to be valuable in the George ROGERS bank, while unprofitable in the O'BRIEN bank. In other places it is a mere slatey coal, not as good as that mined on the DUGAN farm early in the century. On the eastern border, a well owned by H. L. WESTERMANN produced a natural refined oil, which he used for illuminating purposes in his Millerstown store. Donegal as an oil field is fully described in a preceding chapter, where the history of her great oil and gas wells is given.

[p. 506] The first settlement within the limits of the township was made by James HEMPHILL, who came in 1794 and selected the tract of land on which the village of Millerstown was afterwards laid out. In 1795 Jacob BARNHART, Sr., settled on the tract now known as the REEP farm, three miles east of Millerstown, and in 1797 his sons Andrew and Peter joined the settlement. The White Oak church cemetery is on this tract, and the first burial was William BARNHART, a son of Jacob, Sr. In the same year (1795) Adam HEMPHILL settled on 400 acres of land adjoining his brother James HEMPHILL's tract on the west. This little band was soon followed by others, among whom were John FORQUER and Patrick McELROY, who were cousins, and who settled southwest of Millerstown; Charles DUFFY who came in 1796, from Westmoreland county; John GILLESPIE, a native of Ireland, and Moses HANLEN, the grandson of an Irishman, who came in the same year. John SLATOR was also among the early settlers.

Most of the pioneers, as the names given indicate, were either natives of Ireland, or the descendants of Irishmen, the majority of them coming from Donegal county, Ireland. They embraced, besides those already named, such well-known families as the DUGANs, McCUEs, O'DONNELLs, BOYLEs, McFADDENs, BLACKs, HAGGERTYs, STEWARTs, MALONEYs, McCLUNGs, BREADENs and HUNTERs. They, with the BARNHARTs, WOLFORDs, PONTIUS, SLATORs, SANDERSONs and HARTMANs are to be credited with pioneer honors. In the biographical sketches and the sketches of the churches outside of Millerstown the names of nearly all of the first settlers appear. Many of them are also mentioned in connection with the Millerstown churches and industries. The greater number arrived here before a clearing was made in the forest, and assisted in the work of transforming the wilderness into fruitful and productive fields, and in giving the township high rank as the home of an industrious, enterprising and progressive people. Many of the early settlers were great hunters and many stories are told of their extraordinary prowess and hair-breadth escapes.

The distillery established by James HEMPHILL prior to 1803, and the LASHER mill, built in 1805, were the first industries; but as they were located on the site of Millerstown, they are referred to more fully in the history of the borough. Gabriel PONTIUS, who came here about 1803, established a pottery on his farm in 1805, which was carried on by him for many years, his son, Solomon, assisting in the work in later days. Dishes, bowls, pitchers, smoking pipes, etc., were manufactured. A large barn is built on the site of the old pottery. In 1805 a little grist-mill was established at Millerstown, but there was no saw-mill nearer than Butler.

It is related that during the building of the old St. Patrick's church, in the Sugar creek neighborhood, in 1806, Patrick and Charles DUFFY hauled boards from the saw mill at Butler to that point. There was not a road by which they could travel, and hence they were compelled to arrange the load, just as the Crees and Esquamayans of the far Northwest do to-day. Lashing the ends of a few boards at each side of their pack horse and leaving the other ends to trail on the ground, they built up a load of lumber and started on their ten mile trip [p. 507] along the trail to Sugar creek. To the modern man, who has not experienced the trouble and disappointments of freighting lumber after this crude fashion, the sacrifices of those pioneers are an unknown quantity. The pack saddle and horse, troublesome at their best, are almost ungovernable when converted into a motor for trailing boards from mill; so that the adventures of that day's journey, in 1806, speak in themselves of the physical character of the pioneers and their overmastering faith in good works.


The population of the original township in 1810 was 671; in 1820, 960; in 1830, 1,085, and in 1840, 1,615. Late in 1840 its territory was considerably reduced, so that when the census enumerators appeared in 1850 they found a population of 1,174. The re-subdivision of 1854 placed Donegal within its present limits. In 1860 the number of inhabitants was 999; in 1870, 852; in 1880 (including Millerstown's 1,108 inhabitants), 3,264, and in 1890 1,617, exclusive of Millerstown's population. The number of children of school age enumerated in 1893 was 429, made up of 228 males and 201 females. The total revenue for school purposes in 1893 was $5,259.52, of which the sum of $1,699.86 was appropriated by the State. The assessed valuation in January, 1894, was $262,226; the county tax $1,049.06, and the State tax $272.45.

The justices of the peace for Donegal township from 1840 to 1894 are named as follows: John F. WILES, 1840; William T. JAMISON, 1840; James A. GIBSON, 1845; Matthew DUGAN, 1845; William HANLEN, 1846; John BYERS, 1849 and 1854; Denis BOYLE, 1851 ; Hugh McKEEVER, 1857 and 1862; Solomon PONTIUS, 1857, 1862, 1872, 1877, 1882, 1887 and 1892; Michael McGINLEY, 1867 and 1872; Solomon FLEEGER, 1868; Peter H. GILLESPIE, 1877; F. C. FLANNIGAN, 1880; Hugh McFADDEN, 1885 and 1890, and David KELLERMAN, 1894.


In the history of Clearfield township, a reference is made to a school-house near the present south line of Donegal, and again, in the general chapter on Schools, something is said on the question showing that it was the first care of the pioneers to provide instruction for their children. In the history of Millerstown, the efforts of the villagers of the "Forties," to have a school-house for their children are noticed. To-day, there are nine district schools, exclusive of Millerstown, the teachers, in January, 1894, being Katie COYLE, Ella SMITH, Maggie MILLER, Katie McMAHON, Clara BARKLEY, Annie FARNEN, H. T. YOUNG, Lottie TAYLOR and Katie BLACK. The directors for the year ending February, 1894, were George FREDERICK, Joseph O'DONNELL, S. I. PONTIUS, Francis SLATOR, C. H. McGUIRE and D. GOLDINGER.


In June, 1864, a short historical sketch of the Church in Butler county was contributed to the pages of The Catholic, of Pittsburg, by the late Peter DUFFY, a son of one of the leading pioneers of the county and himself a pioneer. In be- [p. 508] ginning his subject he says: "I shall state some facts in relation to an old church and an old congregation in this vicinity, which, if they do not settle the question of its being the first church west of the Alleghenies, may end in the solution of it." Then casting aside the great missionaries of the French Colonial period, he begins with the victory of a man of his own race�Anthony Wayne�over the Indians in 1794, and the crossing of the Allegheny by the pioneers in 1796. In 1801 the Rev. Father LANGAN, the first English speaking priest known to have crossed the Allegheny, held a station on Buffalo creek, in Butler county, within a few miles of where St. Patrick's church now stands. Thither the pious settlers of the wilderness hastened with their children, and there large numbers were baptized in the old faith, and among them was he who lived to write the sketch of the church in 1864. After Father LANGAN had stamped his name on the history of the location, a Father HELBRUN visited the mission, and as he was rector of the older church in Westmoreland county�near where the great monastery now stands�he repeated the visit, and again came among the faithful people on the new frontier.

In 1806 Rev. Father WHELAN, who had known some of the pioneers before their removal from former homes, arrived, and meeting his old friends, all joined in the purchase of land on Sugar creek, in Armstrong county, adjoining the line of Butler, and in building a church and residence thereon near the present building dedicated to St. Patrick. In 1810 the first resident priest bade farewell to the congregation. In 1811 Rt. Rev. Dr. EGAN, bishop of Philadelphia, accompanied by Father O'BRIEN, visited the mission and confirmed many. From that date to 1820 Father O'BRIEN, Father MAGUIRE and Father McGIRR visited St. Patrick's at intervals; but the resolution to send. a resident priest there was not carried into effect until 1821, when Rev. Charles FERRY arrived. He made an enumeration of his flock, and found 140 Catholic families in a territory thirty miles square, all of whom claimed to belong to the old congregation of St. Patrick. Reverend P. O'NEILL succeeded Father FERRY in 1826, and he was succeeded by Father P. RAFFERTY, who resided at Freeport. Father KENRICK, later archbishop of St. Louis, visited the church in 1837, and the same year Rev. J. CODY came to Sugar creek as resident pastor. In 1864, when Mr. DUFFY's chronicle closes, he was pastor of the parent parish, and his people the owners of a substantial church building and parochial residence erected under his superintendence.

Old St. Patrick's was then the mother church of the ten parishes since created inside the old limit of thirty miles square. At Kittanning, Freeport, Butler, Oakland and Murrinsville, church buildings marked the progress of the Catholic religion, while in Clearfield were two churches and at Brady's Bend two, making ten parishes, each having a resident pastor. In June, 1864 the total Catholic population was placed at about 7,000. Mr. DUFFY's injunction in the matter of the old log church: "Preserve that venerable old church; permit no vandal hand to take a chip or a block from it; place a slab over the door and on it inscribe, 'Erected in 1806 by Rev. Father WHELAN,'" is not yet carried into effect. The resident priests since 1864 are named as follows: Revs. J. B. O'CONNOR, 1864; John O'G. SCANLAN, 1865; James P. TAHANEY, 1866; P. S. HERMAN, 1872; Thomas FITZGERALD, 1872; P. M. DOYLE, 1873; Jeremiah CALLA- [p. 509] HAN, 1876; P. J. QUILTER, 1876; John T. BURNS, 1889, and John O'CALLAHAN, the present pastor, who came in 1889.

The following roll shows the heads of families belonging to St. Patrick's congregation, all residents of Butler county in 1803: Patrick BOYLE, Archibald BLACK, Eleanor COYLE, John COYLE, Matthias CYPHER, Mary Ann CYPHER, Michael CARVAN, Peter CROOSIKS, James DENNY, Hugh DUGAN, Michael DUGAN, Thomas DUGAN, Denis DUGAN, Neil DUGAN, Andrew DUGAN, John DURNEIGH or DURNEY, George DOUGHERTY, John DUFFY, John EMPICH, Edward FERRY, John FORQUER, John GILLESPIE, Hugh GILLESPIE, John GALLAGHER, Peter GALLAGHER, Hugh GALLAGHER, Robert HANLEN, William HANLEN, Sr., Moses HANLEN (buried in the old city cemetery at Butler), Robert HARKINS, William HANLEN, Jr., Charles HUNTER, Jacob HARSHMAN, Thomas HAGERTY, Noble HUNTER, Patrick LAFFERTY, John McGINLEY, Patrick McBRIDE, Charles McCUE, Patrick McLAUGHLIN, Neil MURRAY, Daniel McCUE, Hugh McELROY (a friend of Washington), Neil McLAFFERTY, Manus McFADDEN, John McGEE, Dominick O'CULL, Patrick O'FARREN, Connell and Dennis O'DONNELL, Arthur O'DONNELL, Connell ROGERS, Charles SWEENEY, Jeremiah CALLAHAN, Patrick FITZSIMMONS, John O'HARA, David BOYLE, Francis BOYLE, Edward BURNS, James BURNS, Charles DUFFY (who lived on the Donegal-Clearfield Line), Daniel DOUGHERTY, John GREEN, Philip HARTMAN (a soldier of the Revolution), Bernard HAGEN, Bernard McGEE, Hugh McGEE Jr., Edward QUINN, John QUINN, Joseph BLEAKNEY, William COLLINS, John CONLEY, James HAGERTY, Patrick McANALLY, Daniel McDADE, Hugh MURRIN, James MURRIN, William McLAUGHLIN, and, it is said, John SLATOR, a soldier of the Revolution. The great majority of these pioneers resided within the original township of Donegal; but, as its territory was reduced by the establishment of new townships, so was the number of the resident Catholics in Donegal�the two churches of Butler, the three of Oakland, St. John's of Clearfield, St. Mary's of Summit, the church at Millerstown, that at Petrolia and that at Murrinsville, with other churches in adjoining counties,. claiming many of the grand-children of the pioneers.

The log church of 1806 stands in the cemetery, below the present building. The logs are dovetailed at each corner and the interstices, between them, are filled with short pieces of oak set in mortar made of clay and straw. The open roof is constructed of rafters made of eight-inch oak trees, each set rudely matched and fastened with a wooden pin, instead of resting against a ridge-pole, as in modern buildings. On these rafters wide boards were nailed and to the boards the shingles are fastened. The gables above the top of the walls are sheathed with narrow oak boards, as often seen now in the pediments of the modern Queen Ann cottage. Within, the walls are heavily plastered with yellow clay, held together with straw. The interior of roof and gables are washed with lime, and the wall, above and in the rear of the little wooden altar, was papered with a small pattern of gilt wall paper, a remnant of which remains. The windows are long rather than high, so as to obviate cutting the logs, four lighting each side. The entrance is wide but low. From the left of this entrance there is a fairly built stairway leading to the floorless gallery. The rude, hewn oak joists of the nave are now exposed, the puncheon floor having long since dis-[p. 510] appeared. The confessional which stood on the right of the altar down to a few years ago, has disappeared, as well as the little vestry which occupied the space on the opposite side. The altar remains, a reminder of the days when the English speaking Catholics first gathered to worship God west of the Allegheny.

The church just described was superseded in 1841 by a large building erected under the supervision of Father CODY on the summit of Church Hill. It was burned in 1872. Pending the erection of the present building, mass was celebrated in the old log church.

The present church was erected in 1876 by Father QUILTER. It is a Norman-Gothic structure in brick, with Norman tower. The high altar, the stained glass windows, the fine pipe organ, the stations of the cross, and the frescoes speak of the generosity of St. Patrick's congregation in preparing a temple worthy of the Master.


St. Patrick's Cemetery.-- The broken headstone over James DENNY's grave tells of his burial here in March, 1811. The same year, Rody McCUE was interred, and the cemetery was really established. The list of early interments here includes the following named old settlers: Hannah McCUE, 1815; Michael REDD, 1817; Miles McCUE, 1820; George DOUGHERTY, 1822; John MEEHAN, 1825; M. McSWEENEY, 1827; Michael MALONEY, 1827; Thomas DUGAN, 1827; Patrick MALONEY, 1828; John GILLESPIE, 1832; Mark McLAFFERTY, 1829; Peter McLAUGHLIN, 1834; Anna, wife of M. McLAUGHLIN, 1834; Mrs. James DENNY, 1835; Patrick McLAUGHLIN, 1835; Marcus McLAUGHLIN, 1836, aged ninety-two; Nancy DOUGHERTY, 1836; John McLAUGHLIN, 1836; Sophia REDD, 1836, aged eighty-two; Margaret BRADY, 1837; Margaret McCUE, 1839; Mary McBRIDE, 1841, and Patrick BOYLE, 1841. They were interred in front of the log church, prior to the completion of the second building. Hundreds of monuments tell of the birth and death of pioneers and old settlers. The beautiful new granite in front of the church speaks of Father CODY 's birth, at Kilkenney, Ireland, in 1791, and of his death here, August 7, 1871. The fine pillar in the cemetery, erected to Patrick DORSEY and his children, the BROWNFIELD monument and the HARTMAN monument are creditable works in granite and marble.

The Lutheran Cemetery, on the old Andrew BARNHART farm, near the PONTIUS settlement, and close to the Fairview line, speaks of many of the pioneers and old settlers of the Millerstown district. There a church stood at one time, and for fully fifty years it was the Mecca of local Lutheran worshipers. A sketch of it will be found in the chapter on Fairview township.

A private cemetery is situated on the hill-top, above MALONEY's Corners. There Bernard BOYLE was interred in 1847; Michael MALONEY, in 1856, aged eight-seven years; Nancy JOHNSTON, in 1853, and others whose graves are not marked by monuments. A mausoleum was built here, by one of the DUFFYs, which is now crumbled. In 1894 the trees were removed and an ornamental iron fence constructed.

[p. 511]


St. Joe may be said to date its beginning to July 8, 1874, when a 200-barrel well answered the enterprise of the drillers, on the Joseph GRAHAM farm, near where Joseph H. GRAHAM settled in 1837. A few days after the first house was erected on the town site, and by the middle of September, 1874, no less than 250 houses, of all kinds, were huddled together in the new village, including REIBER's opera house, while in and round it stood oil derricks, like the towers of some ancient walled town. In November, following, fire swept away the greater number of houses, including the telegraph office just established there; but before the close of the year, the ground was again covered with frame dwellings, business concerns and shanties. Sundry small fires and time have blotted out the old buildings, with few exceptions. The hotel, erected by Christian ORR, and conducted for some time by Mr. GRAHAM, and the opera house close by, are stern reminders of the days when men were glad to pay high prices for food and shelter at St. Joe. The old DURHAM store was burned July 31, 1890, and immediately after Joseph H. GRAHAM erected the present mercantile house. A postoffice was established at St. Joe in June, 1877, with W. M. DURHAM postmaster. On December 10, 1890, Mr. GRAHAM was appointed postmaster. He built his residence, in 1881, on the site of the old J. W. MILLER store and is to-day the successor of the old merchants�J.W. MILLER, RISNER Brothers and MYERS & Company. There were forty-five wells in the St. Joe district in July, 1885, yielding 1,075 barrels per month. To-day there are several producers in the vicinity, though small compared with the old wells of 1874-79, but yet yielding enough to bring profit to their owners.

Plummer, three miles from Millerstown, was founded in September, 1874, and without ceremony introduced itself as a little center of oil production, commerce, oilmen and derricks.

Danville, a mile distant from St. Joe, dates back to the summer of 1874. Smaller and less business like than its neighbor, it was a place where the oil man could play hide-and-go-seek among the derricks and indulge in less healthy exercise at will.

Greer is the name of the North Oakland station on the narrow guage railroad, which runs through Donegal township. It contains a post-office established in April, 1880, with C. D. WILBUR, who opened a store there in 1879 with H. S. CATE, as postmaster. Mr. CATE, who is running a general store in the place at present, succeeded Mr. WILBUR as postmaster in 1883.

Rattigan, four miles southeast of Millerstown, was the name conferred on a new village in June, 1886, when Humphrey FRIEL was appointed postmaster. In October of that year, FRIEL summarily closed the office and ordered the mail to be delivered at Millerstown; so that for some time the district was without postoffice privileges. F. A. GRIFFIN was then appointed postmaster, and has since transacted the Federal business within his general store.

[End of Chapter 42 - Donegal Township: History of Butler County Pennsylvania, R. C. Brown Co., Publishers, 1895]

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13 Nov 2000, 13:43