Neshannock Township,
Lawrence County, Pa History

This township forms a part of what was one of the original townships of Mercer County, of the same name, in 1805. The territory at that time included at least three of the present townships in both Mercer and Lawrence Counties, embracing over one hundred square miles. It was one of the thirteen original townships of Lawrence County, and then included the whole of Hickory Township, with portions of Union and Pollock Townships, the latter now included in the city of New Castle. The present township includes an area of about eighteen square miles, or 11,520 acres. It is bounded on the north by Wilmington and Pulaski Townships; on the west by Pulaski, Mahoning and Union; on the east by Hickory Township, arid on the south by the city of New Castle and Union Township. It is comparatively level in the central and northern portions, but more broken and abrupt as it approaches the Shenango and Neshannock Rivers. There are no streams of much magnitude. On the west side of the township are Fisher's and Camp runs, and on the east are two small creeks flowing into the Neshannock. There are considerable bottom-lands on the Shenango and Neshannock Rivers, which are rich and productive. Numerous springs abound in all parts of the township, and the water is excellent. Of minerals it has a large share. The greater portion of the township is underlaid with coal, which has been extensively mined in the central portions, particularly in the neighborhood of Coal Centre. Fisher's Run rises in the coal region, and its waters are colored red by oxydes from its source to its mouth. 

Potter's clay abounds, and on the Watson property a pottery was successfully worked for many years. Sandstone is very abundant along the valleys of the two rivers, and a stratum of limestone is found in the southern portion of the township. Iron ore is also abundant. Brick clay is found in many places. The workable coal lies about fifty feet below the surface, and is about four feet in thickness. The northern margin of the coal lies under a stratum of slate rock about twenty feet thick, while the south end of the basin underlies a stratum of sandstone of about the same thickness.

A second stratum of coal lies about sixty feet below the first, and has a thickness of some three feet. This has been worked very little. Lying between the two is a very pure vein of coal, but only about eighteen inches in thickness.

The limestone formation lies at about the same elevation as the coal. A thin stratum of this stone at the bottom underlies the iron ore.

The coal lies in a nearly horizontal position with a slight declination to the southwest. The bottom of the workable vein is somewhat undulating. A narrow-gauge railway for the transportation of coal runs from New Castle into the center of this township. The township also produces [p. 257] the iron known as "blue ore," the vein being from six to eighteen inches in thickness.

There is fine water-power up the Neshannock at Jordan's mills, perhaps the best on that stream. There are no towns or villages of any considerable importance, with the exception of the mining town of Coal Centre, of which notice will be found on another page.

The improvements are generally good, and there are some very fine residences. Two of the main roads from New Castle to Mercer pass through this township; one by way of the Old Shenango Church and New Wilmington, and the other a mile and a half east, passing through the village of Fayetteville, in Wilmington township. The last mentioned was the first one opened, and was traveled extensively until the other was opened, which, being somewhat shorter, took off much of the travel.


One of the first settlers in Neshannock Township was Thomas Fisher, who came from Westmoreland County, according to the statements of Rev. Thomas Greer, in November, 1798, in company with David Riley, a young man then living with Fisher. Each man had a gun and an axe, and a couple of dogs accompanied them. They encamped the first night in the present Lawrence County, at a point about four miles above where New Castle now stands, on Camp Run, near the Shenango River. They constructed a cabin of poles, and built a fire outside, using the cabin to sleep in, for fear of the wolves, which were so plenty they were obliged to take their dogs inside to save them from destruction by the ravenous beasts. It would appear that after selecting lands in the neighborhood, Fisher and Riley returned to Westmoreland County, where they staid over winter, and in the spring of 1799 removed to the valley of the Shenango. They came by way of the Youhiogheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, and thence up the Beaver River in canoes, bringing a few effects with them. Mr. Fisher was married, but had no children. A young woman by the name of Rebecca Carroll lived with the family, and came with them. Mr. Fisher also had a sister, who either came at the same time or some time afterwards, and remained with them until her death. Mr. Fisher purchased several farms in the vicinity, and improved them more or less, raising several crops without fencing. He brought along quite a number of fruit trees, which he planted. The Indians were quite plenty in those days, but were peaceable and disturbed no one. About 1808 or 1810 Mr. Fisher sold his property on "Camp Run," where he first settled, to Rev. William Young, and purchased land about three miles above New Castle, on a small stream now known as "Fisher's Run," and erected a saw-mill, and afterwards a gristmill, about forty rods from the Shenango River, at the place where the "Harbor" road crosses the run. The exact date of the building of these mills is not known, but it was somewhere from 1806 to 1810.

Some years after their settlement Mr. Fisher and his wife started on a journey to visit friends in Westmoreland county, and Mrs. Fisher died suddenly on the road. They were alone, and Mr. Fisher "waked" the corpse in a waste-house by the roadside all night. After his wife's death two nieces kept house for him. Their names were McDowell. He lived on this place until his death, which occurred February 28, 1848, at the age of eighty-four years. He was found dead in his bed and was buried in the little cemetery at King's Chapel. He was a very pleasant and affable man, and a general favorite in the community. Before his death he gave David Riley and Rebecca Carroll, the latter of whom afterwards married Samuel Farrer, each one hundred acres of land.

John Fisher, a nephew of Thomas, was born at Ligonier, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, in 1788. In 1809 he removed to what is now Lawrence County. He took [p. 258] charge of his uncle's saw-mill, and operated it for some years. His son, Thomas Fisher, the 3d, named for his grand-uncle, was born at the mills in 1809, a short time after he came. Mr. Fisher was a practical surveyor, and had set his compass and planted his "Jacob's staff" in all parts of Lawrence County. John Fisher raised a company and took it to the field during the war of 1812-15. About the year 1817 he and his uncle Thomas erected a fuling and carding-mill at Eastbrook, now in Hickory Township, on the "Hettenbaugh Run," which was operated until about 1827. Captain John Fisher lived at Eastbrook until his death in 1841.

The Pearsons were early settlers in this township. The family is a very extensive one, and were originally Quakers, who came over from England with the celebrated William Penn in 1682. John Pearson, grandfather of James, Thomas, Charles, Johnson and George Pearson, together with his son George made a visit to the West in the fall of 1803, coming all the way from Darby, seven miles from Philadelphia, in Delaware County, where they resided, on horseback, through Washington, Beaver and Mercer Counties, and returning by way of Pittsburg. The old gentleman purchased altogether, in what is now Neshannock Township, about one thousand acres of land. It was most probably during this visit that the old gentleman donated about two acres of land for church and burial purposes where the United Presbyterian Church stands. He granted the land upon conditions that it should be well kept and substantially fenced. The old gentleman never resided in Lawrence County, but made frequent visits to his lands, which included the coal lands on the Peebles' farm and a two -hundred-acre tract some two miles farther north, where Bevan Pearson first settled about 1804. The latter afterwards removed to Mercer, where he held several offices in the new county. George Pearson afterwards settled on two hundred acres of his father's land. He soon afterwards purchased a tract containing one hundred acres of one McClaren, and soon after purchased another tract of the same amount of another McClaren. The McClarens were from Ireland, and settled here at an early day. 

Subsequently, George Pearson left this section and lived in Charleston, S. C., for several years. After his return he married Miss Sarah Reynolds, daughter of James Reynolds, who was also a Quaker. It is customary among these people to publish the intentions of a couple wishing to marry in the "meeting" for some time previous to the marriage. In this instance there was no Quaker "meeting" within many miles, and the only roads were bridle paths, and so the young couple made a virtue of necessity and employed Ezekiel Sankey, Esq., father of Ezekiel and Daniel Sankey, to perform the ceremony, without waiting for preliminaries, and the necessary arrangements were soon made and the "twain were made one flesh" at the house of Jesse Du Shane, in New Castle. This was about the year 1810. The Quakers in the eastern part of the State, hearing of this violation of their rules, sent a deputation to the new settlement to persuade them that they had done a great wrong, and must confess before "meeting" and have the ceremony performed a second time, according to Quaker usage. But the young people concluded they had committed no great fault and so refused to comply. They were accordingly solemnly read out of the society.

Mr. Pearson lived on his farm in this township until about 1855, when he came to New Castle, where he afterwards died at the age of ninety-three years. He was a soldier in the War of 1812, and was out in Captain John Junkin's Company-"Mercer Blues"-who were with Harrison on the Maumee and Sandusky Rivers. After his return he was twice called out to Erie. It is not known whether he held a commission or not, but it is probable. He [p. 259] went once as a substitute for his brother Thomas. He afterward received a land-warrant for his services, which he located in Hancock County, Illinois.

Marinus King and his family, from Bellefonte, Centre County, Pennsylvania, settled in the Fisher neighborhood about 1803. King's Chapel" was named in his honor, he being one of the prominent members. He raised a family of seven sons and two daughters.

David Riley, heretofore spoken of, lived with Thomas Fishier until 1807, when he married Sarah Richards, and improved the farm adjoining Fisher's. 

Mr. Riley raised two children-a son and daughter. The latter afterwards became the wife of Rev. Thomas Green. Mr. Riley died September 18, 1870, aged eighty-five years, and Mrs. Riley on the 20th of February, 1872, aged ninety-one years. They had lived together sixty-three years. In their old age they were taken care of by their son-in-law, Mr. Greer.

Samuel Ferver came to this location from Beaver Falls in 1806. He was a millwright by trade, and erected one or both of Thomas Fisher's mills. He married Rebecca Carroll in 1808, and lived on the farm adjoining those of David Riley and Thomas Fisher until his death, March 15, 1862. His wife was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for over fifty years. They raised a family of seven children-six boys and a girl. Rev. William Young came at an early day, probably about 1806-7. He was a native of Ireland, and came from Centre County to this township. He was a great preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a man of talent and a very acceptable minister among the people. He died in 1829, aged seventy-four years. Robert McGeary, from Virginia, settled in the township about 1803, and remained until his death, at the age of ninety-two years. He left a large and respectable family. 

Lot and William Watson, brothers, came from Centre County, Pennsylvania, and settled in this township about 1806-08, on lots numbers 1854 and 1855. William built the large stone house about 1810-12, and Lot put up a good brick residence some years later upon his farm adjoining on the south. For some years after their arrival they lived in log cabins. They were both out in the War of 1812. Lot Watson, son of William, held a State appointment on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railway in 1856. Both the Watsons raised large and respectable families. William Richards, before mentioned, came, according to Mr. Green, in 1802, from Centre County, Pennsylvania, with his family, consisting of his wife and seven children, three sons and four daughters, and two sons-in-law, and located in the King's Chapel neighborhood, where the family settled near each other. 

Mr. Richards was a Revolutionary soldier, and an exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was a large and commanding-looking man, and possessed of more than ordinary talent. He died in 1839. His wife survived him only a short time. They are both buried in the King's Chapel cemetery. His son-in-law, Robert Simonton, came with him and lived in the township some twenty years, when he removed to Neshannock Falls, now in Wilmington Township, or near there, where he lived until his death, at the age of about eighty years. He raised a family of five children. 

John Rea, another son-in-law of Mr. Richards, who also came with him, was a blacksmith by trade, and settled in the neighborhood, where he reared the premium family of twenty children, and died at the age of eighty years. 

Hance Greer, father of Rev. Thomas and John Greer, came originally from County Fermanagh, Ireland, to America in 1804, and first settled at Noblestown, Allegheny County, about twelve miles from Pittsburg, on Chartier's Creek. In 1810 he removed to Sewickley Bottom, where he resided [p. 260] until 1826, when he again removed to Zelienople, Butler County, Pennsylvania, where he died in 1848.

John Greer, his second son, settled in Neshannock Township in the fall of 1821, with his wife and two children. He built a house and moved into it in March, 1822.

Mr. Greer, being a man of good ability and an energetic business man, acquired a handsome property. He was quite a prominent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he filled the office of steward at King's Chapel for many years. He lived with his son, William Y. Greer, a well-known citizen and business man. His daughter, Mrs. William Ferver, lived near him. She raised a family of six children, four sons and two daughters.

Thomas Greer, the youngest son, came in 1830, and settled on a small farm near his brother. He was a blacksmith by trade, and a man of energy and great industry, and very successful in acquiring property. His children, three daughters and one son, settled around him. He held several positions of honor and trust in the Methodist Episcopal Church-was one of the early class leaders, and was local preacher for twenty-seven years.

Frederick Rhienholt, from Germany, settled in the township in 1828. He was a shrewd son of the "Fatherland" and accumulated property with the proverbial thrift of the Teuton. He died March 30, 1874, aged seventy-four years. He raised a family of three sons and five daughters.

James Stackhouse and family, accompanied by his son-in-law, Andrus Chapin and wife, settled in the township in 1834. They were all members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Stackhouse died in 1868, aged ninety-five years. His wife died a short time before. They, like many other of the early settlers, are buried at King's Chapel. Mr. Chapin died September 24, 1870, aged sixty-six years. He was twice married, and reared a large family of children. William Hunt settled in 1830, bringing his aged mother with him. He raised a family of four sons and two daughters, and gathered a handsome property around him. He died in 1851, and is buried at King's Chapel. His family were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. 

Ebenezer Donaldson settled in the township in March, 1819, just after the "big snow" of that winter (1818-19). His cousin, Isaac Donaldson, came some time previous to the War of 1812 and was out at Erie during that war. Both the Donaldsons were from Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

Robert Reynolds, from near Hagerstown, Md., came to what is now Taylor Township, Lawrence county, in 1804, and located near what is now Lawrence Junction, where he remained about one year, when he removed to Neshannock Township, and settled on the Neshannock Creek, about four miles above New Castle, in 1805. He bought a claim of 200 acres. Some time previous to 1811 he purchased the 200-acre tract where the village of Eastbrook now is, and about 1813 sold it to Thomas Fisher, 1st. He served in the War of 1812, most probably in Captain John Fisher's company. He returned from the army in feeble health. About 1819 he purchased a farm on the old county line, two miles east of New Castle, and removed his family to it. Here he died in 1873, at the age of ninety years, surviving his wife about five years. This couple reared twelve children-eight sons and four daughters. When Mr. Reynolds left the old place in Neshannock Township he rented it for a few years, and then his sons, John F. and William F., purchased it, paying the old gentleman $10 per acre for it. John F. Reynolds built a "still-house" about 1824, and carried on the business for six or seven years. He afterwards, about 1835, sold his interest in the property to his brother, and removed to New Castle, and engaged in the business of tanning with his brother Robert, but after a short partnership, finding it less profitable than he anticipated, he [p. 263] sold to Robert and purchased a farm of ninety-four acres, then in Shenango Township, afterwards in Pollock Township, and now in the Fifth Ward of the city of New Castle. Joseph B. always lived in New Castle, where he held the office of Justice of the Peace. He died several years ago. Isaac lived on his father's place, east of New Castle, until his death. Michael, the twin brother of Joseph, also lived in New Castle until his death. Peter studied medicine and practiced on the eastern shore of Maryland. The sisters, Nancy, Mary, Ann and Christy Ann, are all dead.

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Source:   "Neshannock Township," 20th Century History of New Castle and Lawrence County Pennsylvania and Representative Citizens,
Hon. Arron L. Hazen, editor, (Chicago, Illinois: Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co., 1908),
p. 256-272

Transcribed and submitted by Stephen Fisher

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