Piney Township (Chapter 64)


edited by A. J. Davis, 1887



transcribed by
Gene Shirey 
THIS township lies south of the central part of the county. It is bounded on the north by Beaver, east by Monroe, south by Toby, and west by Licking and Beaver. The surface of the township is generally hilly, and portions of it are very rough. The main elevation begins at the Licking line, at the Mount Zion Church, and passes through the township to the Monroe line near Reidsburg. This range of hills is broken up into cross ranges and spurs. At the Licking line for a considerable distance eastward the main elevation is known as Chestnut Ridge. One of these cross ranges starts from Chestnut Ridge and extends southward to Licking, near the mouth of Anderson's Run. Another extends from the James Callen farm to Licking at Sligo. This last range is considerably broken by small valleys.

North of the Wm. Wyman farm the territory lying between that place and the river at the mouth of Piney is a high ridge once covered with pine and oak timber. North of Piney Creek is another highland almost unbroken by valleys and principally covered with small growth timber. South of Licking Creek a ridge terminates at Sligo, which ridge occupies all that portion of the township lying between Licking and Little Licking. South of Little Licking the strip of land lying between that stream and the Toby line is a highland. The Clarion River forms the northwest boundary of the township, which boundary is the Beaver-Piney line. Piney Creek enters the township near the site of the town of Reidsburg. It flows southwest and empties into the Clarion a few miles below where the Monroe-Piney line strikes the river. Licking Creek enters the township near the town of Curllsville and flowing through to the northwest passes into Licking township at the mouth of Sugar Creek Run. Many other streams pass through the township, the principal ones being Anderson's Run, Mineral Run and Little Licking, all of which flow into Licking. Piney Creek has numerous tributaries, also, and these small streams make the drainage system of Piney township one of the best in the county.

The wooded valleys retain the snow and ice in the spring much longer than the cleared lands do.

The original growth of timber was oak and chestnut on the interior highlands, with heavy oak on the lowlands, while along the Clarion and Piney Creek there was a considerable strip of pine and hemlock. The township has yet a good portion of its territory in wild and uncleared land. The small wild animals common to this region still abound in these woods, and occasionally a deer passes through the woodland.

Early Settlements. -- The first settlement within the limits of the township was made quite early.

It is a tradition in the Laughlin family, that in 1798 John Laughlin made & settlement on the tract of land now known as the James Callen farm. The warrant for said tract was issued October 19, 1803.

The tradition to the effect that the settlement was made in 1798, is as follows: John Laughlin, father of Captain R. Laughlin, of Callensburg, left his father's house in what is now Indiana county, to seek a home on Stump Creek. He came to the spring northwest of the hill where the Callen homestead now is, and built a cabin there. He cleared some land and lived on the tract long enough to give him a legal right to the warrant, which time was two years. He then prepared to go east and procure his warrant, but before doing so he concluded to squat on another tract, and to the end that he might get possession of this additional tract, he built a cabin on the Kifer tract, and moved his effects into it. This second cabin is supposed to have been built at the large spring in the woods, below the Thomas Reese homestead. Having made his improvement on this second tract, he proceeded to Indiana. Soon after reaching Indiana, he ascertained that a tract of 187 acres near his father's farm was still vacant, and he at once went upon that tract and began to improve it, and for it he afterward got the warrant and patent, and it became the beautiful farm known as the John Laughlin farm. Then, following up his settlement and improvement on Stump Creek, he procured a warrant for that tract in 1803, and his brother, James Laughlin, came to what is now Piney township, and settled at the cross roads known as the Laughlin place. In proof of this tradition, the following facts are submitted: John Laughlin was born in 1777. He left home for Stump Creek when he became of age. He returned and took up his Indiana farm prior to receiving his warrant for the Callen tract. While at home in Indiana he purchased the Packer tract at the mouth of Deer Creek on the 18th of January, 1803, from Robert Brown (see Beaver township), while his Piney tract warrant was made in October, I803.

From these facts, and as the story goes, it seems to be true that John Laughlin settled in what is now Piney township prior to the year 1800, and probably as early as 1798, as has been claimed.

In the western part of the township Louis Switzer settled and built a house in 1804 on the land now owned by Hiram H. Whitmer. In 1801 Alexander Wilson settled on the farm near Curllsville, now occupied by Thomas D. Stoner. In 1815 John Bole, sr., settled near Curllsville, on the land now occupied by John Bole, jr. In 1816 John McKee settled near Bole's place. The Armstrongs came in 1815. About the year 1817 Richard Reynolds settled where Sligo now is. A man named Dyehammer settled the Kearney farm at an earlv date, and in 1812 traded it to Alexander Beck for a yoke of oxen. John Myers, Samuel Nelson, Joseph McEwen, Thomas Burns, and John Boyles came in 1822. Thomas Magee, Mr. Kifer, Allen Wilson and others came here early, but we are unable to give dates.

Occupations and Products. -- Since its settlement the township has been cultivated more or less, and at present there are some very good farms. It produced great deal of charcoal, iron ore, limestone, and bituminous coal, and within the last twenty years a large quantity of fire-clay has been mined and shipped.

About 1842 Mathias & Co. built Madison furnace on Piney, a few miles above its mouth. Lyon, Shorb & Co. built Sligo furnace on Licking Creek in 1845. Soon after this they bought Madison from Mathias & Co. This firm made iron at Madison till a recent date, and also at Sligo till 1870.

Madison shipped its iron at Piney in boats, and Sligo shipped hers at Cal[l]ensburg, loading their boats at Crary's dam.

The first grist-mill in the township was Fisher's mill, on Piney, below the site of Madison furnace.

Grist-mills were run in connection with the furnaces, and at Madison there was also a saw-mill. Both are now owned by Jacob Arner.

The mill at the mouth of Piney was originally built by Allen Wilson. Later it was owned and run, with boat scaffold in connection, by Jacob Hahn, Hahn & Wagner, Wagner, Metzgar & Co. etc. At present it is run by Betz & Hahn.

Before the war a Mr. Copely dug and shipped some fire-clay. After the war other firms began to operate. In 1867 and 1868 George Beer and Henry Reese began to dig on the lot then owned by Henry Reese. The miners at this bank were Henry Kifer, with his three sons, George, James, and David, and Charles Beer, with his two sons, D. J. and W. A. The Star Fire Brick Company, managed by S. P. Harbison, soon made contracts for fire-clay, and in 1879 the miners named, with many others, were engaged by that firm, and
heavy shipments at once began.

Banks were opened on the Gathers farm, the Joe Myers farm, the Burns farm, the Alexander Armstrong farm, and the Joseph Slaugenhaupt farm. John F. Dunkle superintended the digging and shipping of the clay, which was at first run to Pittsburgh in boats loaded at Piney, and at Gardner's Eddy, where wharfs were built, which, at times, were burdened with probably 2,000 tons of clay at once. When the railroad came to Sligo in 1873, the boating of clay was abandoned, and shipment was made on the cars.

Later, clay banks were opened on the farms of John Kifer, Levi Kifer, James Dixon, Jno. N. Whitmer, S. H. Smith, and Jackson Kirkwood. Nearly all of these last named banks are operated at present by Mr. E. E. Finefrock. Many other small banks are open.

Schools and Churches. -- The first school-house in Piney township was built of logs in 1837. It stood where the "eight-square" schoolhouse now stands. About the same time a school-house was erected in the Mast district. These rude log structures were replaced about two years later by better and more comfortable buildings.

The Means school-house was built about 1826. The No. 6, Sligo, and others of the township were built later. In 1832 an M. E. Church was erected near Curllsville, on land now owned by E. M. Lee. Mount Pleasant Church was built in 1854 by the M. E. congregation, and the Shatnburg Church was built in 1871-72 by the Brethren in Christ. The ministers noted in Callensburg sketch have all preached at Mount Pleasant. The M. E. Church had congregations at Sligo and at Madison. They held their services in the schoolhouses at those places.

Stores. -- The first store in the township was kept by David Stoner. Richard Reynolds opened a store in 1817 near the site of the present store of J. B. Miller & Sons.

Maxwell Odell built the long red house near where Craig's dam now is, and opened a store in 1830. The house still, stands, and is in good condition. Later, stores were kept at Sligo Furnace, at Madison Furnace, at the mouth of Piney, and at the Kearney farm. Mr. Peter Mobley erected the Kearney store in 1874. He did business about eighteen months, when he died. A. B. Kearney opened in 1877, and sold out November 9, 1886, to E. E. Finefrock. When the Madison furnace "blowed dut " the store also closed. In 1885 M. M. Altman opened a grocery store at Mount Pleasant Church, but soon abandoned the business.

Miscellaneous Items. -- In 1872 David McClay, Republican, was elected, to the State Senate over the Democratic nominee of this district. The township has had only two other county officers, viz.: William Henry, commissioner, and P. M. Dunkle, jury commissioner.

The old settlers have almost all disappeared. A few remain at advanced ages. Mrs. Whitmer, living with her son, H. H. Whitmer, on the Switzer lands, has in her possession a clock which has done service in the family for fifty-three years.

Several casualties have occurred in the township. John Metzgar was accidentally drowned at the mouth of Piney, and only a few years later Jacob Krauss was drowned at the same place.

In 1865 two wells were drilled for oil at the mouth of Piney, on the point, but no oil was found. Stave-mills and portable saw-mills have been operated in the township, but not long at a place.

A well was drilled opposite the mouth of Deer Creek for oil, by Daniel Reichart, some time about 1870, but it also proved a dry hole.

Villages sprang up at Sligo Furnace and at Madison Furnace, and also at the mouth of Piney. Three other very small villages, viz.: Shamburg, Bellville, and Logtown, are all the little towns of the township.

The people at present are generally thrifty, and are devoting more attention to their farms and stock.

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