Shenango Township,
Lawrence County, Pa History

Formerly a part of Beaver County, Shenango became one of the original townships of Lawrence County at the time of its erection as a county. Its area is about 16,000 acres, being one of the larger divisions of the county. Its surface is much varied; in the northern and eastern portions the land is rolling, and well adapted to agricultural purposes, while in the south and west are hills, interspersed with narrow valleys. Sharp ridges rise to the height of three or four hundred feet above the level of the Beaver River, and, on their sides, fruit of excellent quality is grown, as well as the various grains. There is also coal in abundance found half way up the hillsides, and every farm has its supply.

The township is watered by Big Run, and other tributaries of the Neshannock and Beaver, on most of which the power is fine, and in numerous places was improved for mill purposes.

The township is thickly settled, and improvements are such as to compare favorably with those of any other community in the county. Below the city limits of New Castle small lots have been purchased for some distance, and the northern portion of the township is a continuation of the city.


William Cairns, who came to Shenango as early as 1796, came from County Derry, Ireland, and, after landing on the soil of the United States, about the year 1790 settled in Delaware. He was married there in 1792, and shortly after removed with his wife to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Some time in 1796 Mr. Cairns came with his family to what is now Shenango Township, and settled on the farm lately owned by Mrs. J. R. Sherrard. Here he made a clearing, built a cabin for the accommodation of the family, and set to work clearing and cultivating the land. He planted an orchard on the place not long subsequent to his arrival, the first in the neighborhood.

Mr. Cairns was, without doubt, the first settler in the present limits of the township, the only other white settler known to him being Nathaniel Squires, who lived down the Beaver River towards Beavertown, probably within the bounds of Beaver County. Mr. Cairns brought with him his wife and two children and a third child, a daughter named Rachel, was born July 19, 1798, hers being the first birth of a white child in the township. For two years after their settlement there was no white woman besides Mrs. Cairns seen thereabouts. When Mr. Cairns came he probably settled a 500-acre tract now cut up into several farms, and afterwards purchased an additional tract of 300 acres in the northern part of the township, upon which he moved. He had learned the weaver's trade before he left Ireland, and after the country around his new home became partially settled, he put up a shop in which to work at his trade, weaving cloth for the settlers for a number of years. He also opened a small store, which he conducted for a good many years. He became a popular and prominent man, and held a number of offices of public trust, among them that of constable, justice of the peace and sheriff. He served as justice of the peace for more than forty years.

A considerable portion of the land in the southern part of the township was bought up by Benjamin Chew, of Philadelphia, who secured it at a cost of a few cents per acre. He had several thousand acres altogether, including portions of Shenango, Wayne, Slippery Rock and Perry, which were surveyed generally into four-hundred acre tracts. An act was passed by the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, requiring Mr. Chew, as well as other persons holding large amounts of lands in the same manner, to secure to each settler half the tract upon which he located. By this means all were able to secure homes for themselves, and the residue became a source of profit to Mr. Chew and his son, who succeeded him in the management of the lands.

Sometime in the year 1796, William Tindall, a Revolutionary soldier, came to the township, and made improvements on a four-hundred-acre tract of Chew land. The first cabin he built was not on the right tract, and he was obliged to build another. Mr. Tindall was accompanied by John Connor, who afterwards settled on an adjoining tract. Mr. Tindall was originally from New Jersey, and at first located in Somerset or Allegheny County. There he left his family when he came to what is now Shenango Township, and, after making improvements on his claim, went back after his wife, and children; he brought them out and made a permanent settlement in 1798. He brought a quart of apple-seeds with him, and planted them just below his house, raising from them the first nursery in the county for a number of miles around.

John Connor, who came out with William Tindall in 1796, was but fifteen years of age at the time, and lived with the latter. He afterwards settled a four-hundred-acre tract in the Chew district, adjoining the Tindall tract on the east.

Robert Stewart in 1802, located on a two-hundred-acre tract lately owned by Mrs. P. T. Hamilton. About 1815, Stewart sold out to Robert McWilliams, who built a stone spring-house on the place, and also had a grist mill on the bank of Big Run, near by.

The farm, lately known as the Joseph P. McMillin place, is a part of lot number five, first Donation district-said lot being granted to Major Isaac Craig, February 28, 1794, in consideration for his services in the United States army during the Revolution. This tract was afterwards conveyed to Samuel McClure, who settled upon it some time between 1797 and 1800. He made the first improvements on the place. In October, 1803, he sold part of the tract, and in April, 1822, Archibald Cubbison purchased a portion of it also, and built the second log house thereon. Joseph P. McMillin bought the land of Cubbison in 1836, and lived on the place until his death.

In the month of November, 1811, John Gibson came from McConnellsburg, now in Fulton County, Pennsylvania and, together with a man named Sloan, purchased a two-hundred-acre tract of land. Sloan never came to the county, and afterwards sold his share of the tract to Gibson and James McKee. Gibson was the first settler on the place, and became a prominent man.

Joseph Baldwin was one of the early settlers; he was a school teacher, and taught in the early schools in the township, and was also closely identified with the organization and management of the Disciples Church, near Normal Glen. He served five years in the regular army.

The farm known as the old R. M. Gibson farm was settled by Hugh Wilson, about 1815-16, and Mr. Gibson bought it of him afterwards.

John Miller came in the neighborhood of 1800, and bought a large amount of land south of the present city limits of New Castle, along Big Run. He was killed by the fall of a tree January 28, 1813.

Seth Rigby, Sr., came from Virginia in 1804, and leased the farm owned by the James Shields heirs, which he occupied one year, and in 1805, rented a place of Dennis Kennedy, whose tract cornered on the southwest with the one which Mr. Rigby settled in 1806. When the Rigbys came to Lawrence County the family consisted of Mr. Rigby, his wife and six children, and three children were born afterwards. Mr. Rigby first put up a log cabin on his place on the west side of Big Run, near the stream, and set out an orchard. This not being a convenient location for a dwelling, he removed it to the lower land on the east side of the creek.

James Gaston came originally from New Jersey, and for a number of years lived in Washington County, Pennsylvania. In 1805, he came with his family to Lawrence County, and settled on the farm which afterward was partly owned by his grandson, James Gaston. He made his improvements in the fall of 1805. This tract was called a two-hundred-and-fifty-acre tract, but over-ran about sixty-one acres.

John Butcher settled the tract just West of Mr. Gaston in 1799-1800, and made some of the earliest improvements in the neighborhood.

Hugh Gaston came to the county previous to 1800, and first took up his abode near the site of the town of Moravia. About 1802-3 he came to Shenango Township, and located on the tract lying next east of the one his brother, James, settled in 1805. He was a bachelor and a great hunter.

Other early settlers were William McCandless and the Jacksons, who were of Scotch-Irish descent, the orginal representatives of them in this country coming from Ireland. They were related, and settled near each other. Their farms were along the fertile "Savannah Valley," in the western portion of the township. Charles Lutton came orginally from Ireland about 1799, and settled in the southern part of the township. Mr. Lutton's son, William, came to the farm which his grandson, Oscar Lutton, later owned, about 1809-10, and lived until 1874, when he died at the age of eighty-eight years. He settled a two-hundred-acre tract.

James Wilson came from Allegheny County, and is said to have located in New Castle previous to 1813, and gone out from there to Erie that year. About 1813 he removed to Shenango Township, and improved a two-hundred-acre tract later owned in part by his sons, Albert and Ezra

(Pg 325)

Wilson. His brother, Henry, came about the same time, and had a part of the James Wilson farm.

Jacob Book came from the eastern part of the State about 1799, and settled 200 acres adjoining the Charles Lutton place.

James and Hugh Warnock, brothers, came at an early day from Ireland, and stopped in Washington County, afterwards removing to the neighborhood of Mount Jackson, North Beaver Township, Lawrence County, some time previous to the year of 1812. They finally removed to Shenango Township, and purchased the Joseph Baldwin farm. James Warnock kept the first post-office in the township, known as the Shenango postoffice. He owned a five-hundred-acre tract in Shenango Township on which he lived. James and Hugh Warnock served in the War of 1812-1815.

James McKee came from Ireland about 1793, and some years afterwards bought a two-hundred-acre tract of land in Shenango Township, of the executors of John Beard. The deed was made March 7, 1812, but it is likely that McKee was on the place a number of years before that. Mr. McKee came to the neighborhood some time about 1800, and he probably made the first improvements on this place. John Manning came from Ireland, and, after living in Virginia, and in Washington County, Pennsylvania, finally came to Shenango Township in 1805, and together with Reuben Bell, located on a two-hundred-acre tract. Mr. Bell came about the same time as Mr. Manning, from the eastern part of the State.

Samuel Baldwin came to the township in 1805, and settled the farm later owned by Hill, then consisting of 100 acres. Mr. Baldwin came with his wife, from Virginia, and made the first improvements on the place. Like his brother, Joseph Baldwin, who, came afterwards, he taught school.

John A. Morrison came originally from York County, and located above Greenville, Mercer County. In 1835 he removed to what is now Lawrence County, and purchased some land near Miller's mill of his brother, Abraham Morrison, living in Johnstown, Pa.

The Harbisons, living northwest of "Greenwood" Methodist Episcopal Church, are descendants of the celebrated Massy Harbison, who was captured by the Muncie and Seneca Indians, May 22, 1792, and escaped the third day after her captivity with her son, then but an infant.

Phillip Houk and his brother came to the township early, and located on the farm where Benjamin Houk later lived.

James Chambers came from Ireland, sometime previous to the year 1800, and brought with him his son, Alexander, at the time but nine years of age. Alexander Chambers afterwards removed to Mercer County, and in the year 1800 settled a two-hundred-acre tract of land just north of the present borough of New Wilmington. For some time he lived in Mercer County, and finally came to Lawrence and purchased a place in Shenango Township.

Soldiers of the Revolution.-John Butcher, who settled in the northwest corner of the township or in Taylor, was a veteran of the Revolution.

William Tindall enlisted for five years at the beginning of the Revolution, and after the expiration of that term volunteered for eighteen months longer, and after that employed his time with others in scouting against the tories. He served nearly the whole time the war lasted; was in the battle of Monmouth, N. J., June 28, 1778, where Washington defeated the British forces under Sir Henry Clinton.


Two sons of William Tindall, William and Thomas, started for the seat of war, but Thomas nearly severed his foot with an axe while sharpening a stake to use in setting his tent, and was obliged to return. William went ahead and was at Black Rock.

Seth Rigby, Jr., then a young man, went out in Capt. Wilson Kildoo's company, which was raised in what was then Beaver County, and had members from many parts of what is now Lawrence County, and New Brighton, Beaver County. It was composed of drafted men, and went to Erie. William Lutton served in Capt. James Stewart's company, and was at Black Rock. James Warnock was out with Capt. Wilson Kildoo's company to Erie, as was also his brother, Hugh Warnock. James McKee was out at Erie a short time. James Manning served at Erie. John Bell was also out at Erie. Samuel Baldwin who settled in 1805, was out a short time, and probably went to Erie with the rest of the men from the neighborhood. Phillip Houk and his brother were out. Nathan Hazen, who came from Washington County, Pennsylvania, about 1791, was at Erie. Alexander Chambers served in the War of 1812, and was in a few engagements. He probably went to Fort Meigs, and served under General Harrison. He was at the time he enlisted living in what is now Mercer County, just above New Wilmington, but afterwards removed to Shenango Township, Lawrence County.

War of the Rebellion.-The men who took up arms against the South served in various regiments, but principally in the 100th (Round Head), commanded by Colonel Leasure, of New Castle. Six companies of this organization were from Lawrence County. Among the other regiments represented were the One Hundred and Thirty-fourth, Seventy-sixth, Seventy-eighth, etc. Two companies, F and H, Twelfth Regiment, of three-months men, were recruited at New Castle, and Battery B, Pennsylvania L. A.


Robert McWilliams built a log grist-mill on Big Run, southeast of New Castle, about 1816, and some time afterwards built a frame mill at the same place. He also had a saw-mill, and did considerable business while his mills were in operation. They have long since been torn away, and nothing remains of them.

About 1841-42, John Armstrong, Esq., erected a grist-mill in the northeast corner of the township, on Big Run, where he had fine power. The mill was a frame building, and occupied the site of the frame mill afterwards owned by David Fox and Joseph Frew.

John Miller, whose accidental death we have mentioned, built a grist-mill on Big Run, a mile below New Castle, about 1811. It was built of logs, and stood till about 1828-30, when Mr. Miller's son-in-law, William McMurray, tore it down, and in its place put up a frame structure, which was burned down in 1845. Before the second mill was burned, Mr. McMurray had sold the property to John Struthers, who owned it at the time of destruction. After this disaster Struthers became unable to make the remaining payments, and the property reverted to McMurray again, and he sold finally to Stewart & Bryson, who erected a mill in 1849. They in turn sold to Abraham Hartman, who operated it for a while, then sold it to Henry Wolfe. The latter ran it till the spring of 1873, when he sold out to John Sechler, who, in company with his son, operated it for a time, then sold to C. F. Alborn and F. E. Alborn, who operated it with great success. The Alborns are still in the milling business, have a modern plant, and do a large business. While Mr. McMurray had the property he built a saw-mill and a distillery, some time previous to 1835. The saw-mill rotted away and the distillery was taken down and the stone used to build a house for the miller.

About 1837-8, McMurray put up a building intended for an oil-mill, becoming somewhat embarrassed, sold it to Joseph Clifton, who built another dam, and converted the oil-mill into a woolen factory, which he operated from 1844-5 till the fall of 1870, when it was dismantled. While Mr. Clifton had the woolen mill he attached a drill to his machinery and bored for oil. He went down about four hundred feet, getting only a fair showing of oil.

Miller put up a saw-mill several years before he built his grist-mill, and, when he concluded to have a grist-mill attachment he took as a partner a man named Ault. The grist-mill and saw-mill were in the same building, with the water wheel between the two apartments, and for a time a good, lucrative business was carried on.

Robert Patterson built a saw-mill at Big Run Falls at an early period, but did not run long. These falls are just below the stone arch bridge, where the Pittsburg Road crosses the run, and were originally twenty-five feet high. In order to cut race for the saw-mill the rock was blasted out for several feet, and the falls are not now as high. The scenery below them is wild and romantic. The tract of land on which they are situated has always been known as the "Falls Tract." Big Run Falls and surrounding lands are now Cascade Park, a resort largely attended by the people in the surrounding country.

A distillery was built at Normal Glen by James Cubbison, and run until some time subsequent to 1835.


This place was given its name from the fact that it was the seat of a select school conducted by Joseph Baldwin about 1857- 8. It has never made any pretension as a village, it being a point where is located a cluster of houses, and roads spring out in seven directions.


The greater portion of the coal taken out of the township has been mined in the southwest part, in "Hog Hollow" and vicinity. Coal was taken out in the neighborhood as early as 1846, and Zachariah Tindall opened a bank in 1850. It abounds on probably every farm in the neighborhood, and being of the upper vein is easily worked. A vein of limestone from thirteen to eighteen feet in thickness crops out towards the summits of the hills. It is of a bluish tint, lies in thin layers, and is fit only for burning, making a beautiful white lime.

Iron ore abounds in the same neighborhood, and has been extensively worked. The ore in Western Pennsylvania is usually found next above the limestone, but in this case they dug, and blasted through shale, sandstone and limestone for some twenty feet, and finally limestone gradually merged into the ore, the last few inches of it being considerably impregnated with the iron. This was in the "Big Bank."

Ore abounds in greater or less quantities in the entire neighborhood, and generally of a fine quality. A three-foot vein was opened in the summer of 1876, on the same farm with the "Big Bank," and it was also found on the farm of Mrs. J. R. Sherrard and other places.

In the "Big Bank" there are four grades of ore; first, at the top, three feet of "red keel;" then about three feet of "yellow keel;" then solid "striped ore" for about six feet; and, lastly, a "shell ore" for another six feet. The latter is easily taken out, and is very rich; the other grades, especially the "striped ore," requires more or less blasting.

The "Big Bank" is probably richer than the others in the neighborhood, but are extensively worked.


About 1810-12, a schoolhouse was built of round logs on the place where Hon. Geo. T. Weingartner now lives, and stood but a few rods north of his present residence. It was the first one in this part of the township. An Englishman named Cornelius Stafford, who taught in various other townships in the southeast part of the county, was the first teacher.

A schoolhouse was built about the winter of 1813, on the farm then owned by Robert Irwin. The first teacher was John Gibson, who had settled near by. Mr. Gibson was one of the superior class of teachers, and under his tutorship a school always flourished. This was the only regular schoolhouse built for a long time in that vicinity.

A log cabin, originally built for a dwelling, stood on the John Martin farm, and in it James Leslie "kept school." This was about 1810-11. A schoolhouse was built of logs as early as 1806-7, on the Henry Tindall farm, and the first teacher was William Arnold. A school, though not of the earliest, was built in the north part of the township, near the Hickory Township line, and was first taught by a Mr. Supple.

The number of schools in the township at present is seventeen, with an enrollment in 1908 of 395. The total amount paid the seventeen teachers was $5,624; the total expenditure for school purposes, $8,315.81.


A Methodist Church ("Morris Chapel") was built about 1870, in the northeast part of the township, on land originally owned by Andrew Guire, who settled it, and belonging to his wife and children when the church was built. For some time the congregation had no regular pastor, some of the members themselves occupying the pulpit. Revs. Patrick O'Connor, Dyrie, and J. C. Rhodes came in order, and were the first regular pastors.

The Congregation of Disciples at Normal Glen.-"As early as 1833, Elder Sanders and Elder William Hayden, of Ohio, delivered a number of discourses in the country, about three miles to the southeast of New Castle, but there was no church until about the year 1844, when Elder John Applegate, of Ohio, organized one in that vicinity, afterward known as Normal Glen. This organization was maintained until after the Christian chapel was built in New Castle, when most of the members of the Normal Glen congregation united with the church in New Castle. There was a chapel erected in about the year 1847, which continued to be a house of worship, after the Disciples Congregation ceased to use it, various ministers of different denominations delivering discourses in it for the benefit of the people in that vicinity. There was also a Sunday-school taught in it. The ministers serving the congregation of Disciples at Normal Glen resided in the Western Reserve, in Ohio, among whom were Elders John Applegate, Calvin Smith, Harvey Brocket, B. F. Perky and others."

The "Savannah" Methodist Episcopal society was organized probably about the year 1820, their first meetings being held at the house of Laban Joseph, who lived near where the present church stands. They also held meetings in the Austin schoolhouse, which stood on the hill back of the McCandless farm, on land now in Taylor Township. After this they held them in the "Savannah" schoolhouse, and finally, some time between 1853 and 1856, their brick church was built, on land purchased from Robert McCandless. A cemetery is located just north of the church but is used as a general burying place, and does not belong to the society. The name "Savannah" was given to the valley which extends for several miles north and south, in the western part of the township, and near which the church is located. The schoolhouse was named from it, also, by Thomas Berry, at one time county superintendent of schools.

"Greenwood" Methodist Episcopal Church was organized about 1858. Meetings were held for a year or two in the Warnock schoolhouse, and in 1860 a frame church was built by A. P. Schaffer, on land donated to the society for church and burial purposes, by William Harbison. In 1858 a Methodist class was organized, consisting of E. J. Moore and Eliza, his wife, and Mrs. W. C. Harbison, all from New Castle. Soon after the organization of the class a revival meeting was held, conducted by F. Bennett and Rev. S. K. Paden, and some thirty or forty people joined the society.

While the meetings were held at the schoolhouse, Revs. S. K. Paden and Samuel Bentley preached, and during their time the church was built. Mr. Paden continued to preach for them, and a circuit was not long afterwards formed, including "Greenwood," Croton, "Savannah," Moravia and "Mt. Pleasant" church, on Snake Run.

The first regular pastor in the new church was Rev. John McCombs, and after him came Rev. Z. W. Shadduck. A Sabbath-school was organized in connection with the society at the schoolhouse, before the church was built. Its first superintendent was E. J. Moore, who held the office until the church was built, when W. C. Harbison became superintendent.

Center United Presbyterian Church was organized from 1820 to 1825, as a "Union" or Associate Reformed congregation. A petition was circulated for a "call" for a minister to come and "talk to them," and a subscription raised to defray his expenses. Tent meetings were first held in the grove where the present commodious brick church now stands, before the society was organized. The church was organized as "Slippery Rock," and afterwards changed to its present name. Two or three years after the society held its first tent meetings, it organized and put up a frame church, which stood a few feet east of the present brick structure. Two acres of land for church and graveyard purposes had been given by James Warnock.

Possibly different ministers preached to them occasionally for a while, but Rev. David Norwood was ordained and installed their first pastor April 5, 1826. His charge consisted of Slippery Rock (Center), Mount Jackson and Shenango, and he continued to preach to them until about the 1st of October, 1833, when he resigned. Their second pastor was Rev. Mr. Ferguson, who came from Mercer. Rev. John Neal preached for them for twenty years; Rev. Samuel Patterson a year or two; Rev. Joseph Barclay, five years. Rev. J. H. Peacock came about 1867 and stayed until some time in 1874. Rev. John D. Glen took charge November 1, 1874, in connection with Wurtemburg; Rev. A. Y. Houston came next; Rev. J. J. Imbrie came in 1880. Rev. Dr. R. A. Brown in 1885; Rev. R. W. McGranahan in 1892, Rev. J. W. Burnley in 1900, Rev. W. U. Grove in 1904, and Rev. L. S. Clark in 1907. The session consists of Rev. L. S. Clark, Elmer McCreary, J. L. Fisher and Joseph Pyle. The church membership is sixty-five, that of the Sabbath-school fifty-five.

In 1900 the Center and Eastbrook churches were united under one charge.


This institution is located in this township, on about forty-four acres of land presented to the city for that purpose by Charles M. Phillips. A special act of legislation in the winter of 1865-66, was passed for the establishment of a poorhouse, and James B. McKee and William B. Lutton appointed commissioners to attend to the location and erection of buildings. A vote was taken by the citizens of the county, and the institution voted against by all the townships except Pollock, now the Third, Fourth and Fifth wards of the city of New Castle. Thereupon Mr. Phillips made out his deed of the property to the city. The buildings were erected in the summer of 1867, at a cost of between four and five thousand dollars, and were made good, substantial frame structures. The entire cost of improvements made on the farm is in the neighborhood of $15,000. October 14, 1897, the New Castle Poorhouse was destroyed by fire, but fortunately the sixteen inmates escaped without injury.

After the original buildings were completed, the commissioners, on the 27th day of November, 1867, appointed Messrs. Archibald Cubison, Robert Reynolds and George Pearson poor directors, and they constituted the first board. Mr. Reynolds especially stood by the institution in hours of need, and sustained it largely through his own efforts.

The average number of inmates since the poor farm was established has been about twenty. Many stayed but a short time and went away. The present number of inmates is twenty. The buildings are located near the old Pittsburg Road, in Shenango Township, about three miles southeast of the city of New Castle. The institution is sustained by a tax raised by the people of the city.

Source:   History of New Castle and Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1908, p. 322-330

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