Knox Township (Chap. 55)


edited by A. J. Davis, 1887



transcribed by
Michael Goughler

THIS division of the county, in topographical character, is an undulating upland, cut deeply from north to south in the center by Paipt Creek.

It was formed from parts of Paint, Highland, and Washington, by a decree of the Court, dated May 7, 1853, and was the result of a petition presented at the Quarter Sessions of February, 1853. Three commissioners, James Hasson, B. J. Reid, and J. K. Maxwell, were appointed. They reported that a new township was necessary, and submitted the following boundaries, which were confirmed by the Court: "Beginning at the Elk township line at the northwest corner of warrant No. 2770, thence along the Elk township line, to the Washington township line, a distance of 560 perches, to a red oak, being the northwest corner of warrant No. 2776, thence east along the Washington township line, 318 perches, to a maple, being the southwest corner of warrant No. 2783, thence north along the dividing line of warrants No. 2783 and 2782, 525 perches to a post, the southwest corner of warrant 2788, thence east along the dividing line of warrants 2788, 2787 and 2806 on the north, and Nos. 2783, 2784 and 2785 on the south 1010 perches to a post at the Farmington township line, it being the northeast corner of warrant No. 2785, thence south along said line by the eastern boundary of No. 2785, 388 perches to the northwest corner of warrant No. 3681, thence east to the middle of said tract, a distance of 319 perches to a post, thence south, 161 perches to a maple, thence east 42 perches to a white oak, thence south by lands of Bingham 535 perches to Robert Felton's corner, thence west by the line dividing land of Cook and Felton from lands of Walter 182 perches to Little Toby Creek, thence north fifty-eight degrees west 263 perches to the northeast corner of warrant No. 2771, thence west along the dividing line of warrants No. 2772, 2773, 2774 and 2776 on the north, and No. 2771, 2769, 2767 and 2766 on the north 1318 perches to the Elk township line at the place of beginning."

All east of warrants 2772 and 2785 was taken from Highland township; the former warrant and three west of it were originally a part of Paint township; and the tracts north of these belonged to Washington. The township was named after Hon. John C. Knox, then presiding.

Previous to 1820 the region now embraced by Knox township was entirely unsettled. In that year John B. Vogelbacher came out on the State road from Carlisle, Cumberland county, bringing with him his family, composed of his wife, his son Joseph, then five years old, who is still living, and his daughter Mary. A native of the Black Forest, where he had served as a gamekeeper, he had sailed for America in 1815. The voyage was one of months, and full of horrors. Of 300 passengers about one-half reached the port alive. The brutality and incapacity of the captain were incredible. The supply of food and water ran short, and neglect and want brought on diseases which made terrible ravages among the emigrants. The passengers were obliged to obtain drinking water by hanging out clothing to catch rain. On their arrival at New York, Vogelbacher and two other men were alone able to crawl on shore. They complained of the captain's cruelty to an official, and he advised them to lay in wait for him and shoot him dead. This lawless method of punishment, however, was not carried out, and. whether or not the shipmaster was ever brought to justice is unknown.

Mr. Vogelbacher remained five years at Carlisle, working at the cooper trade, but becoming dissatisfied he resolved to seek independence amid the wilds of the West. He purchased 114 acres from James Humes, of the Lancaster Land Company, and with his family and some effects in a Conestoga wagon, started for their unseen home, over the long and solitary road through the wilderness.   On arriving at the place, he selected as the spot for his residence an eminence a little to the northwest of the road, where at present stands the brick dwelling-house of his grandson, and built a cabin of two ground rooms and a loft.

Upon his arrival Mr. Vogelbacher discovered that there were several lodges in the vicinity occupied in a desultory way by quite a number of harmless Cornplanter Indians, attracted by the excellence of the country for game. On the P. Gatesman farm, in the angle of the road intersection, they had constructed a double and a single cabin of saplings. There was a camp of brush and bark on the present 'Bastian Lauinger farm, and another of the same description near the bridge, where the Lickingville road crosses Paint Creek. One of the most notable of these Indians was Big John. He, with others of his tribe, came to Vogelbacher's house on one occasion, and asked him to accompany them on a hunting expedition. He replied that he had no lead. Big John said that he would soon bring lead; started off toward the south, and in three hours returned with a handful of the mineral wet and stained with dirt. Mr. Vogelbacher thought he had brought it from the Clarion River. When asked where he had obtained it, the Indian cocked his head to one side, smiled shrewdly, and replied, "That's Big John's business." It is probable that the Senecas obtained their lead from a distance and secreted it in the earth at convenient spots, to spare them the labor of carrying it with them wherever they went. Big John told Joseph, Vogelbacher's child, that he would one day tell him where to find the lead, but he and his comrades shortly disappeared, and never returned.

Mr. Vogelbacher was a famous huntsman, his experience as a forester standing him in good need. The quantity of noble game he captured would make a modern Nimrod green with envy. Three hundred deer was the record of one year, among them a snow-white doe. It was very common for him, while at work in the clearing, to drop several of those animals during a day. When lead was scarce, as it often was with him (his gun required an ounce ball), he took care to preserve his bullets, if possible firing while the game was between him and a tree or log, so that if the missile passed through the body it would easily be found in. the wood; if it did not, he could extract it from the carcass. In this way he shot nine deer with the same bullet, remoulding it after each shot.

He had several desperate encounters with stags at bay. In one of these, after badly but not mortally wounding a very large buck, it required an hour's time and the assistance of his son, before the animal could be taken at advantage and dispatched with the tomahawk. One night, hearing the squealing of a hog, he took his trusty gun, ran out in undress and found a bear devouring a stray porker. He wounded the bear, and on approaching closer the brute sprang savagely at his leg, but encountered instead the down-hanging butt of his flint-lock, and tore the box out of the stock, leaving the marks of his teeth in the surrounding wood. The gun is still in the possession of the family.

Vogelbacher was very familiar and popular with the Indians, his prowess in the chase inspiring them with respect. They often hunted with him and taught him to tan deer-skins and make moccasins. Before the coming of other settlers, Mr. Vogelbacher's nearest civilized neighbors were the Kapps and Siegworths at Fryburg on the north, and Alexander McNaughton on the south. A short route to Kapp's Settlement was blazed through the forest. The hospitality of John Vogelbacher was almost as noted as his skill as a marksman. Travelers along the road were always sure to find a warm and gratuitous welcome at his cabin. The fire-place pot was kept replenished with fresh game meats, and wheat bread -- a rarity remarked by his neighbors -- could always be found on his table.

The sterling traits of this pioneer were recognized when the country became settled.  His superior character and intelligence preserved his ascendancy over his neighbors and made him a leader in the community, being foremost in promoting improvements and building up the settlement, as he had been in laying its foundation. He died in August, 1859, aged seventy-two. The cluster of farms about his homestead and the neighboring church (which was erected on his farm) bespoke his pre-eminence in the name Vogelbacher's Settlement, which it long bore, and by which it is still sometimes known.

John Vogelbacher was alone till about 1822, when Francis Tschurdi (now Judy) and his family, from Switzerland, came to what is now the S. and P. Shillinger farm. George Walters and his two sons came soon after from Allegheny county and built a one-room log house on the present farm of P. Gatesman, sleeping the year round in the log barn. Then followed Henry Imhoof, Frederick Shillinger, and about 1833 David Walters, Charles Kerr, and James Lamb.

The starting up of Lucinda furnace in 1833 by James Humes and George B. Hamilton, who were foremost in the opening and developing of Knox township, attracted many, and considerably increased the population. From 1830 to 1845 settlers came in great numbers, most of them being German Catholics. The northeast corner of the township was settled by Joseph Snyder, the northwest, a fertile and well-cultivated section, by William Strikenbarger, many years later. Much of the land in the central and southern part was purchased from President Buchanan and John Reynolds, who became the owner of the furnace and Humes territory in 1843.

The first saw-mill was constructed on Paint Creek in 1832 by Hamilton and Humes. The first grist-mill was built by the same firm in 1834. Before its erection the settlers had to carry their grain much longer distances. At first the nearest mill was Best's on Beaver Creek, twelve miles away. Hither the grain was hauled in home-made wagons, with wooden wheels fashioned out of the splitting off of a cross-cut, and with wooden axles, a combination which in motion produced a screech that could be heard two miles off, as it jolted over the rough roads.

Shippenville was the earliest trading point. Before its existence the pioneers contented themselves with homespun fabrics, and lived entirely on the abundant game and their little crops of cereals and produce. For five years Mr. Vogelbacher never saw a cent, except one which a passing traveler gave to his son.

The earliest road was of course the State road. The first local road was one connecting Lucinda post-office (that is the cross-roads at the church) with the Furnace. It took a more southerly course than the present way between those points, and is now disused as a public road. The road leading from Lucinda Furnace to the river at Clarion Furnace was one of the earliest opened.

The first inn was started in 1844 by Jacob Neuland, and occupied a part of the residence of John B. Vogelbacher. In 1850 the present Union Hotel, also by Neuland. A store at the cross-roads was built by Joseph Vogelbacher in 1869.

In 1846 the Catholic congregation built a frame church, on the site of the present one. Before that time mass was celebrated about once a month in the house of John Vogelbacher, by Father O'Neill and others, but there was no regular pastor. In 1850 the frame building was burned down, and replaced in 1856 by a brick church 39 x 70 feet. Before erecting this, the knob on which it was to stand was cut down, leveled and regularly sloped. This church was also destroyed by fire (it is thought by an incendiary), January 3, 1860, but promptly rebuilt with the same dimensions, and in 1871 a rear extension of thirty-five feet was added. When the first church was built, 1846, the congregation was composed of about thirty-five families; at present there are one hundred and forty families, and eight hundred souls. The following have been the pastors: 1846, P. Hoy; 1849, Jos. Dean; 1850, Andrew Skopez; 1854, Jas. Slattery; 1855, A. Skopez and others; 1856, Charles B. Mäyer (first resident priest); 1857, various; 1858, Philip Schmidt and Thomas Ledwith; 1859, various; 1860, A. Skopez; 1863, Andrew Andolshek; 1864, up to the present time,. Rev. John Koch. Rev. Patrick Smith assisted by Father Koch in 1868 and '70.

There are no Protestant Churches in Knox township. The Protestants have a cemetery on the farm of P. Gatesman. .

Schools. -- The first school was started by subscription in 1824, on the Bindel farm. There are now one parochial and four public schools in the township, with a total attendance of about one hundred and ninety pupils. The Catholic school was commenced in the parsonage, in the autumn of 1866, with William Schmidt teacher. In 1876 the Benedictine sisters arrived, and have been teaching since. A large brick convent was erected for them. The school building is a two-story frame.

The toil and untiring industry of the German agricultural population have subdued the soil, naturally stony and untractable, and brought it to a creditable state of cultivation. Many good farms and pleasant farm-houses are to be found in this township, particularly in the Settlement, the vicinity of Snydersburg, and the northwest corner.

Lucinda post-office (Vogelbacher), is a collection of houses about the church, with two stores, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, etc. The Pittsburgh and Western Railroad has a station near by. The post-office was transferred here from Lucinda Furnace shortly after the furnace was abandoned. Snydersburg is a small village to the north, on the railroad. New St. Mary's is a thriving settlement of farmers in the western end of the township, and reaching into northwestern Paint. It was named from St. Mary's in Elk county, from whence many of the settlers came.

Population. -- In 1870, 656; 1880, 767.

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