Clarion Township (Chap. 48)


edited by A. J. Davis, 1887



By C. S. Hepler.

transcribed by
Ellis Weller

THIS township is located in the eastern part of Clarion county, and is bounded on the north by Paint, Highland and Millcreek townships, on the east by Jefferson county, on the south by Limestone township, and on the west by Monroe township.  It is in length about ten miles, and has an average width of about five miles.  The portion lying in the northern part and bordering on the Clarion River is the most rugged, and presents quite a variety of scenery, being in some places very picturesque, while those sections lying along what are known as the "Turnpike" and the "Waterson" road, are level enough to make beautiful farming land.  The soil is, in some parts, quite fertile, and in others it is rather thin, but is of a nature to bear fertilizing, and can be made quite productive.

The township is well watered by numerous streams and springs.  Along a good portion of its northern boundary is the Clarion River, while into this flows the stream known as Big Mill Creek, which also bounds the township on the north and northeast.  Little Mill Creek, a branch of Big Mill Creek, bounds it on the east, and these three streams are fed by numerous tributaries from the interior of the township, the most noted being Douglas's Run, White's Run, which is fed by Olive Branch, Trout Run, in the western part of the township; also Brush Run in the southwestern part, which is perhaps the largest stream in the township.  This last named creek is fed by numerous branches, the chief of which are North Branch and Frampton's Run.  These and other smaller streams form a perfect net-work of fresh water brooks, thus making the township suitable for grazing and agriculture.  Along the above-named creeks lie fine sections of timber land, especially along Clarion River and Big Mill Creek.  The trees indigenous to the climate and soil of the township are the different species of the oak, maple, hickory, chestnut, pine and hemlock.  The forests contain trees of finest growth, but the gray old monarchs of the wood are being rapidly felled by the woodman's ax, and converted into boards, lumber, and staves, to  be shipped away to other parts. Very little timber is used for fuel, as coal, which will be noticed more fully hereafter, is so abundant and cheap that the custom of burning wood has long since given way to the burning of the "black diamonds."

The vegetable productions of the township are the small grains, such as wheat, oats, barley, corn, etc.  There are, on an average, about one thousand acres of wheat harvested every year.  What rye is grown is usually consumed as feed for the stock on the farms, and not as breadstuff, consequently very little attention is given to its cultivation.  Oats are extensively raised.  There are perhaps twice as many acres of oats raised every year as there are of wheat.  Corn is as extensively raised as oats,  and yields from fifty to sixty bushels to the acre. There are two principal grasses grown in this township, viz., clover, big and little, and timothy.  Of these timothy is the more extensively grown, although it is said that clover is a good fertilizer, thereby enriching the soil, while timothy impoverishes it.  The different kinds of fruit raised in the township are apples, peaches, pears, plums, quinces, grapes, etc.  The best species of apples flourish, and are the most important of all the fruits.  Summer, fall, and winter varieties grow in abundance.  Of peaches there are very few varieties grown, because the climate is too severe for them to flourish.  Pears grow in abundance.

The numerous hills of the township are all underlaid with bituminous coal, and many with limestone and iron ore.  There are three different veins of coal -- the lower or bottom vein, the middle vein, and the upper or summit vein; the different deposits will each average about three feet in thickness.  There are in operation at present about thirteen mines, in which are broken about six hundred bushels every day.  This coal sells at the mines for from one to four cents per bushel, according to quality.  It is delivered a distance of five miles for seven cents a bushel.  Next to coal in importance is limestone.  This is found in great abundance in the southwestern part of the township.  The quarries on the farms belonging respectively to Messrs. S. M. Pierce and D. Conner, are especially worthy of notice.

Horses, cattle, sheep, and swine are the principal animals found in Clarion township.  There are many and fine breeds of horses represented, those known as the English draught and the Clydesdale being the most popular, from the fact that they are large and strong, thus being well adapted to heavy work, which is much more requisite in this section than mere roadsters.

At present writing, herds of Jerseys Guernseys, Alderneys, and the celebrated Shorthorn breed may be seen grazing on the beautiful hillslopes, or ruminating beneath the boughs of some stately shade-tree.  Sheep are perhaps the best paying animals reared on the farm.  Many breeds are represented in this township, but the breed known as the Southdown is perhaps the best adapted to the climate, and produces the most wool.

Swine are extensively raised, and furnish the chief article of meat diet.  The Berkshire is the most popular.

Within the limits of this township there are four flouring-mills, several saw and shingle-mills, and one or two stave-mills.  The flouring-mills are situated, one in the eastern part of the township on Little Mill Creek, and belongs to J. B. Jones, of Corsica, Jefferson county, Pa.; two in the northern part of the township on Big Mill Creek, and are respectively known as the Dean grist-mill and the Spangler mill; the other one is in the southwestern part of the township on Brush Run, and is now owned by a Mr. Shingeldecker, who recently purchased it from Mr. Cover.  These are not merchant-mills, but grind only the grain taken there for that purpose by the farmers.  As they are supported by people from neighboring townships as well as by those of Clarion, they all are enabled to do a good business.  They run by water power, and in seasons of protracted drought do little work.  The saw and shingle-mills are all situated in the north and northeastern part of the township, on Mill Creek and tributaries.  The stave-mills are employed in sawing barrel-staves, which are all shipped away, there being no cooperage in Clarion county.

 The only village not incorporated, within the limits of the township, is situated near the southern boundary and is called Mechanicsville, or Frampton P. O. At present it contains a dry goods and grocery store, belonging to and kept by Mr. J. P. Kahle, a hotel known as the McCullough House, a blacksmith shop, a post-office, which has a daily mail, and is kept by Mr. Ed. M. McIntire; a wagon shop, and office of the justice of the peace, A. J. Frampton, esq., also several private residences.  The post-office was so named in honor of William Frampton, esq., one of the oldest settlers of the place, and father of the present justice.

 Education in Clarion township is given fair attention, there being within its borders ten public schools.  In the early history of the township schools were established and fostered.  Judge Peter Clover gives the following description of one of the first buildings erected within the present limits of the township for school purposes: "It was built of round logs, and about eight feet high, and with five corners, one of which was part of the chimney as far up as the mantel-board, and from that to the square it had four corners, and roofed with clap-boards, and logs laid crosswise to hold on the boards.  The building was chinked, as they called it, between the logs, and then daubed with clay, or mud mortar.  The fire-place was a large back-wall of stone, and the chimney was built out of small poles and clay as high as it was required.  The floor was laid with hewed puncheons; the upper floor was laid with the same kind, and covered with earth to keep out the cold.  The seats were made of long stabs, round side down, and about high enough to prevent the children's feet from touching the floor.  The writing desks were made by putting sticks in the wall, said sticks having hooks on the ends, and a board laid across these.  These boards were placed at an angle of about forty-five degrees.  Instead of windows, a piece of log was taken out, and sticks put across, over which oiled paper was fastened in order to let in light."  In such houses did the youth receive their education, being instructed by masters of Scotch-Irish descent, whose pronunciation was rather broad for good English.  The first schools were supported by subscription, at the rate of about five or six dollars per year for each scholar.  The teachers always boarded around among the patrons of the schools.  The text-books were the United States Speller, and the scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments for a reader.  The Western Calculator was the work on mathematics, and the student who worked to the double rule of three was considered a graduate in arithmetic.  But the world is progressing.  The schools are no longer supported by subscription, but by public money.  There are used in the schools at present the most approved series of text-books.  Young men and women especially trained to teach are the instructors.  True, there are some poor school-houses in the township, and we must say that there are none as good as they ought to be, or even might be.  Patent furniture has been placed in a few of the school-houses, while others are funished [sic] with mere benches.  The minimum length of the school term is five months, (1) while the number of children of school age will probably reach five hundred.  The township has within its present limits, three religious denominations, with as many houses of worship.

The first church building erected in what is now known as Clarion township was built on land bordering on Brush Run, in the southwestern part of the township.  The building was erected on land donated by the Rev. McGarrah, of sacred memory, and was situated in the midst of a burial ground.  This burial ground was the only place of interment for many miles around.  Occasionally a body is laid to rest there even yet, but the fence that once enclosed the sacred spot has crumbled into ruin, and many of the beautiful white gravestones that marked the places where dear ones rest, awaiting the dawn of resurrection morn, are leveled with the dust.  In this old grave-yard lie buried many of the first settlers, who will be noticed hereafter.  The name of this first church was Rehoboth, and Rev. McGarrah was the first pastor.  The denomination was Presbyterian.  It is said that this good old man was very highly educated, and mighty in prayer; but his speech was slow, and it often took him three hours to deliver a sermon.  He used no notes while preaching, and his sermons were delivered with great earnestness.  It is related that he often became so earnest while delivering discourses, that great drops of tears would fall from his eyes to the floor.  I am told that he often preached more eloquently by his tears than by the power of his voice.  No trace of this old church remains, but a new Rehoboth church, situated about one mile south of Strattanville, has taken its place. The denomination is Presbyterian, and is presided over by the Rev. Britt.  The building is a modest frame structure, oblong in form, one story high, and has a seating capacity of about four hundred.  Around this church is also a burial ground of about two acres.  This is the only Presbyterian Church within the limits of the township.  The congregation is composed of quiet, intelligent citizens, and numbers about one hundred.  Church services are held in the church every other Sunday, and Sunday-school on the first day of every week the entire year.

 The second house of worship erected within the township was built near the site of old Rehoboth, and is called the Seceder Church.  It remains to this day, and is sometimes used by the Methodists for church services.  It is also a frame structure, and can seat about one hundred and fifty persons.  The Rev. John Lickey was its first pastor.  At present the Seceders do not have a congregation in this township.  There are two M. E. Churches, known as the Asbury and Fair Haven churches.  Flourishing congregations worship in both, and their influence for good is felt far and near.

 The number of inhabitants of the township is about 1,200.  The first settlers of the precinct came from Westmoreland and Centre counties during the years 1801 and 1802.  The Young, Maffet, Guthrie, Maguire, Potter, Clover, and Corbett families were represented among the pioneer settlers.  These brave people came all the way on horseback, having no road except Indian trails on which to travel.  They also brought with them on horseback as many personal and household effects as possible.  They endured all the hardships and privations that settlers of a new country usually encounter, there being at first but one thing plentiful, and that was game.  But the land which they purchased and on which they settled was new, and, the soil being rich, the wilderness ere long was made to blossom as the rose.  Farms were laid out, trees felled, houses and barns erected, all of which was evidence that these people had sought a new section of country which they determined to make their home.  The first white male child born in Clarion county was born within the present limits of this township, in a small house which stood beneath the shade of an old oak tree, which stands by the side of the turnpike between Strattanville and Clarion boroughs.  The name of the child was Thomas Young, and his birth occurred in 1802.  This child lived, grew, and waxed strong, and his children are among the best citizens of the county.  The Hon. Hugh Maguire, son of James Maguire, one of the earliest settlers, is believed to have been the second white male child born within the limits of the township.  The old gentleman is still living, and resides on his farm just east of Strattanville.  His father was a scythe maker, and made the first scythes manufactured in Clarion county, thus being one of the most useful men among the early pioneers.  Others who were also very useful were Philip Clover, jr., a blacksmith, his being the first shop in the township, situated near where the Stone House now stands; John Corbett, a surveyor; John Roll, a cooper; John Love, a weaver; and Philip Clover, sr., was a tanner and shoemaker.  The remainder of the early settlers all followed farming.  At that time these brave pioneers were compelled to travel to Kittanning, Armstrong county, in order to reach the nearest store.  This distance is thirty-five miles, and the road on which they traveled was a mere pathway in the forest.  During the first two years of the settlement flour was brought from Westmoreland county on horseback.  Iron was also packed from this and other counties, and cost fifteen cents per pound.  Salt cost ten dollars a barrel.  At that time coffee and tea, luxuries of life, were little used on account of their excessive price, tea being four dollars and coffee seventy-five cents per pound.  As early as 1800 Alexander Guthrie, John Guthrie, Thomas Guthrie, and William Maffett, of New Derry, Westmoreland county, Pa., came to this township and made settlements.  They erected some small cabins, and made other improvements, returning to Westmoreland in the fall of 1800, blazing trees as they went, to guide them on their return the following spring.  The ancestors of the Guthries and Maffetts above named were originally from Scotland, whence they fled to Ireland during a period of persecution; shortly after, they, came to America.  Mr. James G. Maffett, of this township, had in his possession (and it still remains in possession of the Maffett family) an old music book, written by William Maffett, grandsire of the above named William Maffett, in 1717, on one page of which is written :
                "Written by Me,          By Me.
                           "William Maffett, April the 18, 1717.
                                      "William Maffett, his musick book."

John Maffett, father of William Maffett, the author, came to America from Ireland, about 1774, as the following certificates will show.  The originals of these certificates are now in possession of the Hon. J. T. Maffett, of Clarion borough.  They read as follows:

 "That John Maffett hath lived in the bounds of this congregation from his infancy, and allways behaived himself honestly, soberly and Inoffensively, free of any publick scandal -- known to us -- is certifyed at Drumareth this 12th day of April, 1767.

"These are to certify that John Maffett and his wife Elizabeth have always behaved with strict sobriety and honesty, and maintained fair moral characters.
"Given at Dromore, Mar. 19, 1773. WM. HENRY."

We next find him in what is known as York county, Pa., as the following will show:

"YORK COUNTY -- ss. I do hereby certify that John Maffett hath voluntarily taken and subscribed the oath of Allegiance and Fidelity, as directed by an Act of General Assembly of Penn'a, passed the 13th day of June, A. D. 1777.
"Witness my hand and seal the 27th day of May, Anno Domini, 1778.
"No. 161 WM. MCCLEAN. [L. S.]"

A number of the first settlers of this township enlisted in the War of 1812, but all returned home without a wound or a scar.  Not so fortunate, however, were those brave men of this precinct who enlisted in the great struggle known as the Civil War.  Many upon setting out for the field of action bade their friends and relatives farewell for the last time.  True, many returned, and those yet living, and who reside at present within the limits of the township, have organized themselves into a Grand Army Post, with headquarters at Strattanville, q. v. These living heroes annually decorate the graves of their dead comrades with flowers, thus cherishing the memory of those who have gone before.  The present inhabitants of the township are, generally speaking, a sober and industrious people, striving to make their homes pleasant, and promote the general welfare of their country.

The major part of the people are farmers, the remainder every-day laborers, merchants, millers, miners, blacksmiths, carpenters and teachers.  The total number of farmers in the township is about one hundred and thirty-one.  The number of laborers, that is, those who work at whatever they can get to do, is perhaps twenty or twenty-five.  There are two merchants.  The millers number three or four, while perhaps there are not less than a dozen miners.  Those who follow the remainder of the occupations above named are not numerous, there being but one blacksmith now actively engaged within the limits of the township.  Many of the resident teachers teach in adjoining townships, and some have gone to labor for the time being in neighboring counties.

An association known as the Clarion District Camp-meeting Association has within the limits of the township, and situated one mile north of Strattanville, an enclosure of about twenty acres of woodland, which is devoted to the purpose of holding annual religious gatherings denominated  "camp-meetings."  Many members of the association have erected fine cottages upon the grounds, and other improvements are being made from time to time, so that the grounds present quite a respectable appearance.  These camp-meetings are held by the Methodist Episcopal denomination of Christians, and are always attended by large numbers of people.  A high board fence surrounds the entire ground.  An auditorium, with a seating capacity of about one thousand, has been erected, and on Sabbaths the hearers usually fill every seat.  An endeavor will be made to gradually merge this camp-meeting into an assembly, modeled somewhat after the great Chautauqua Assembly.

Clarion Township in 1816. -- The summer of 1816 is memorable as being the coldest summer ever witnessed by the oldest citizens of Clarion township.  Vegetation grew but little, and what little there was, was destroyed by repeated hard frosts.  There was but one man in the township that had any corn, and that was John Guthrie, now deceased.  His corn grew, but did not harden in the ear.  Mr. Guthrie thought he would endeavor to do what nature failed to accomplish, and, accordingly he built a kiln for the purpose of curing it; but one night the kiln accidentally caught fire, and burnt away, consuming corn and all.  In the words of Paine, "These were times that tried men's souls."  Famine almost stared the early settlers in the face, but they quailed not.  In order to secure flour, Messrs. Samuel and John Jones, who have long since passed to "that undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveler ever returns," together with others of the early settlers, hewed out a canoe on the banks of Mill Creek, manufactured five barrels of pine tar, placed the tar in the canoe, then "poled" the cargo all the way to Pittsburgh, Pa., a distance of one hundred and ten miles.  Landing at Pittsburgh, they exchanged their five barrels of tar for as many barrels of flour, and then "poled " the flour back home in their canoes.

1 By a late act of the Legislature passed since the above was in type, the minimum school term has been increased to six months.

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