Prior to the year 1800, Limestone township was one vast forest, along the streams and over the hills of which roamed the deer, the bear, and other wild animals. Since that time a steady transformation has been going on. The vast forests have given away before the woodman's ax, and settlements, well improved, have been established. In the year above mentioned, the first white man that set foot upon the soil of this precinct, together with his family, made a settlement on the premises now owned and occupied by J. W. Speer, in the extreme southwestern part of the township. These people came from Chester county, Pa., bringing with them all they could of their household effects and farming implements, on horseback. This energetic pioneer's name was Thomas Meredith. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and fought bravely for national independence. Soon after the old man established his new home, he mounted a horse and rode back to his native county -- Chester -- procured some young apple trees, returned and planted them near his cabin home, and afterwards had the satisfaction of seeing them nearly all grow. This was among the first orchards established in Clarion county. The second settlement made within the present limits of the township was by Christian Rhodes, in the year 1801, at a place now known as the Stahlman settlement. A year later -- 1802 -- John Brown, an eccentric old bachelor, and a soldier of the Revolution, came into the precinct, and built a cabin, making other improvements also, near the Rhodes settlement. During the same year, Colonel John Swan -- the noted Indian fighter -- and Samuel C. Orr, came from the more eastern part of Pennsylvania, settled and made improvements in the western part of the township. Colonel Sloan settled what are now known as the farms of Samuel Conner, George Smith, and the heirs of John Smith, deceased, while Orr settled what is now known as the Orr homestead, at present owned and occupied by Culbertson Orr. The farm now owned and occupied by Rev. Jacob Booth, was also settled in 1802 by Tate Allison. Thus homes in the wilderness were established, and the country grew. It is not necessary to describe the hardships and privations of these early settlers; suffice it to say they were severe enough; but pluck and energy prevailed, and ere long the wilderness blossomed as the rose. Thus settlements grew, and nothing occurred to mar the happiness of the settlers till 1812, when the second war for independence broke out. Among those from Limestone who went forth to battle for their country's rights were Thomas Meredith, jr., and his brother, Owen, both sons of the earliest settler of the township. Robert Allison, son of Tate Allison, above named, was in the list also. None were killed, all returning home in due time.
As the settlements grew and the population increased, the people began to see the necessity of schools for the education of their children; accordingly a house was constructed, and a school established. This first school-house was a mere log cabin with a chimney outside, and was built about 1818, on the farm now owned by N. H. Sloan. Since then education has kept pace with the improvements and increase of population. The inhabitants look upon the public schools with favor. At present there are ten public school structures in the township, in which are held as many schools, presided over by as many teachers, and attended by about three hundred pupils. The houses are neat, frame structures, the majority of which are furnished with the latest improved furniture. Besides the above, there is one Catholic school, situated in the eastern part of the township, and well sustained by the Catholic citizens.
Churches were also early established, the first house being erected where the present Salem Church now stands. As the number of inhabitants increased, so increased the number of churches, till at present there are within the township one Presbyterian, one Baptist, two Methodist Episcopal, one Reformed, one Lutheran, and one Catholic Church, each society having its own church edifice in which to worship. Most of these churches have burial-grounds attached to them, all of which are pleasantly located and well kept.
At first the settlers had much difficulty in getting their grain converted into meal. This lasted nearly a quarter of a century, when Colonel John Sloan erected on Big Piney a small mill built of hewed logs. This mill was erected on the site of what is now known as Smith's saw-mill. The second-oldest flouring-mill -- a frame structure -- was erected on Little Piney in 1833, by Samuel C. Orr. This mill still does good work, and is at present owned by Henry Edder. At a little village known as Greenville, which will be noticed hereafter, Messrs. John Sloan and his brother Samuel erected a flouring-mill, which was perhaps the third one erected within the township. Henry Smith, deceased, razed the old log-mill erected by Colonel Sloan, and built a new one -- a large frame structure -- a short distance below the site of the old one; and the one built at Greenville was afterward torn down and a new one erected by Washington Craig, now deceased. This is a large frame structure also, and is in every respect a first-class mill. Thus there have been built on the waters of Big Piney four flouring-mills, and upon the waters of Little Piney one, making five in all.
The settlers were not long in discovering the mineral wealth of the township, the result of which was the erection of iron furnaces, foundries, etc. The first iron foundry was built about 1836, by Thomas Hurst, and was located at Orr's Mill. Mr. Hurst also made fanning-mills, the first manufactured in the township. In 1837 Wan brothers erected an iron furnace and foundry on Little Piney, near the site of William McKinley's residence. Eight years after the erection of the above-mentioned furnace and foundry -- 1845 -- another furnace was built on Little Piney and denominated Limestone furnace. There was more iron cast at this furnace than at any of the others. At present nothing remains to mark the sites of these furnaces but a few cinders and portions of the stone stacks, and silence now reigns where once industry prevailed. The hills of this precinct are also underlaid with a bountiful supply of bituminous coal, but so far few mines have been opened up and worked. An almost inexhaustible supply of limestone -- rock and flag --underlies the greater portion of the township, and is extensively used by the farmers as a fertilizer, the good effects of which may be seen by the heavy crops of grains and grasses raised and harvested annually.
As has already been noticed, the precinct was at an early day a vast forest, the trees indigenous being pine, hemlock, and oak in the valleys of Big and Little Piney, and in the lowlands, while on the highlands and ridges chestnut, hickory, etc., prevailed. Lumbering was at one time, and is yet, extensively carried on. There have been erected within the present limits of the township twenty-one saw-mills -- eleven on Big Piney, of which nine were water-power mills and two were steam-power; on Little Piney there have been erected ten, six water-power mills and four of steam-power. There was also an ax factory built on Big Piney. Limestone township has furnished the major portion of sawed lumber used for building and other purposes in Clarion county.
Years, at least a score, elapsed from the time the first settlement was made till the first post-office was established for the accommodation of the settlers. This first office was denominated Limestone, and was located at a place known as "Sloan's Gap." Captain James Sloan was the first postmaster. The office was supplied with mail once every two weeks, the mail route extending from Kittanning, Pa., to Olean, N. Y. At present there are four offices, viz., Crates, Kingsville, Frogtown, and Limestone. This last-named office is located at a village known as Greenville, which is situated in the western part of the township on Big Piney. It is the largest village in the township, having a population of about one hundred and twenty. One dry-goods store, one flouring-mill -- already mentioned -- one harness shop, one tannery, and one blacksmith shop mark the business portion of the village. It also has two resident physicians -- S. C. Johnson, a graduate of Washington and Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, and A. K. Carmichael, a graduate of the Baltimore Medical College. Two of the above-named churches -- Baptist and Presbyterian -- are also located at this place. The next village of any importance is located about one mile southeast of Greenville, and is known as Frogtown. This little village is situated in the midst of a delightful agricultural community and has a population of forty. It contains one store of general merchandise, owned by J. D. Laughlin and brother, the Frogtown post-office, and a blacksmith shop.
About the time the first post-office was established -- 1820 -- William Guthrie erected a small log building on Little Piney, a short distance below Limestone furnace, designed as a carding-machine and fulling mill. The property passed into the hands of John Thom, Esq., and afterwards Joseph A. Ogden became sole owner of the mill. Mr. Ogden erected a new mill-a large frame building -which at the decease of the owner became the property of his son, J. C. Ogden, who is the present owner and proprietor. Craig Brothers also erected a large woolen factory, one mile north of Greenville, on Big Piney. This factory at one time did an extensive business, but about the year 1873 it was abandoned, and since that has been removed to New Bethlehem.
Limestone township is noted chiefly for the richness of its soil and for the many beautiful homesteads within its limits. It is clearly an agricultural community, the quality of its farms not being exceeded by that of the farms of any other township in the county. Many of the farmer citizens own and occupy fine residences. Not only the residences attract the eye, but what are known as the "front door yards" of many of the homesteads are very beautiful. Grassy plots dotted with beautiful flower-beds, fine walks lined with trees indigenous and exotic, evergreen and deciduous, are not an infrequent scene around farm-houses, and go to show the taste the citizens have for the beautiful as well as for the useful.
All the principal grains and grasses are grown in this township. The average yield of wheat per acre is about twenty bushels; that of corn about seventy-five bushels; oats, about forty-five bushels. Many of the farms produce more per acre than is stated above, while very few well-cultivated farms fall below the above-quoted average.
Much attention is given to the breeding of blooded stock, and the very best breeds of horses, cattle, sheep, and swine are represented in the precinct. The farmers seem to glory in the success they are meeting in their calling, and are not content with present progress, but have two grange organizations for the purpose of aiding and instructing one another.
When the call "To arms " came at the beginning of the late war, Limestone furnished her quota of men, and right well did they do their part. On October 9, 1886, the surviving soldiers, residing in the township, met and organized, with a membership of twenty, the Captain Charles E. Patton Post, No. 532, G. A. R. The following officers were chosen: Commander, T. D. Spence; S. V. C., Jesse Hepler; G. V. C., Samuel Hepler; adjutant, R. P. Miller; surgeon, David Baughman; chaplain, Rev. Jacob Booth; O. D., J. M. McCormick; O. G., E. M. Reese; quartermaster, J. C. Ogden.
Of late years several wells have been drilled for the purpose of obtaining petroleum, but so far they have all proved what are styled "dusters." During the summer of 1885 Stuart, Ogden & Co. drilled a well in the northwestern part of the township to a depth of twelve hundred feet, when what at present seems an inexhaustible supply of gas was struck. This gas, as it escaped from the well, produced a roaring noise, not unlike distant thunder, which could be heard for miles around. The same year this well was purchased by the Clarion Light and Heat Company, and the gas was piped to Clarion, where it is used as fuel, etc. In 1886 a second well was drilled near the site of the Stuart-Ogden well, by the Citizens' Gas Company of Clarion, with equally good results. The gas from this well is also piped to Clarion, a distance of five miles, and is used as fuel. These are the only gas wells in the township.
Thus we see that this precinct has been transformed from a vast forest
into well cultivated farms. It has increased in population from one man
and his family, in 1800, to about one thousand three hundred at the present
writing. Many of the oldest citizens of the township now living were born
and raised on the farm they now live on. Among these old and highly respected
citizens may be mentioned James Riley, Culberson Orr, C. M. Sloan, and
D. H. Parsons. Of these, Mr. Riley is the oldest, being seventy-four years
of age. By indsutry and frugality he succeeded in retaining the old homestead,
which is one of the finest farms in the township. Although nearing four
score years, yet he is hale and supple, often walking a distance of ten
or more miles, without the least apparent fatigue, and although he is perhaps
the oldest citizen of the community in which he lives, yet he has never
been outside the present limits of Clarion county.