Taylor Township,
Lawrence County, Pa History

This township, named in honor of President Zachary Taylor, was the first new township erected after the organization of Lawrence County. It was formed from parts of North Beaver and Shenango Townships. It originally extended to the old county line between Beaver and Mercer Counties, but on the 10th of September, 1859, the township of Union was formed from portions of Mahoning, Neshannock and Taylor, taking a strip two-thirds of a mile in width from the latter.

The township is irregular in outline, and contains an area of about six square miles, or 3,840 acres, being the smallest in the county. It is bounded on the north by Union Township and the city of New Castle, on the south by Beaver River and Wayne Township, on the east by the city of New Castle and Shenango Township, and on the West by North Beaver Township. About one-half of the township lies in the valleys of the three rivers, and the remainder is hilly land on the north and east. The Mahoning and Shenango rivers unite and form the Beaver River a little north of the center, on the west side, and the old canal beds traverse the township as far south as the old village of Moravia, in courses parallel to the rivers. Numerous small creeks and spring runs flow into the rivers from the hills, and the township is well watered. The soil on the bottom lands is exceedingly rich and productive, and much of the hill land is good, and even the most precipitous hillsides afford excellent pasturage.

The mineral resources of the township are considerable. Coal is found in the bluffs all along the eastern part of the township. Although of excellent quality, the vein is not of sufficient thickness to make the working of it profitable. There is a great abundance of limestone in the northern and eastern portions of the township, and in the northeastern part, at an elevation of about 300 feet above the river, is an excellent deposit of ferriferous limestone. This stone has been worked by George Johnson, who had a tram railway connecting with the Pittsburg and Lake Erie Railway, by means of an inclined plane and bridge over the Shenango River. The quarry was opened by Messrs. Green & Marquis about 1869, and the same year an inclined railway was built, which connected with the canal. When the canal went out of use, the company built a bridge over the Shenango about 1873, and put down a side-track to connect with the Erie and Pittsburg Railway. The lands upon which the quarries are situated are owned by Robert Cooper and Martin and Newton Law. The quarries are opened for a distance of nearly half a mile, and the deposit is extensive. The stone is of two varieties, the upper portion showing a breast of from eight to nine feet in thickness, which is the valuable part, and all that is worked. The lower stratum is about three feet in thickness. There is a thickness of from three to six feet of earth overlying the limestone, and a bed of fire clay underlies the stone.

The Erie and Pittsburg Railway passes diagonally through the northern portion of the township, a distance of two and a half miles, and there is about a half mile of the Pittsburg, Youngstown and Ashta- bula Railway also in the township, lying between the Junction and the Mahoning River; the Pittsburg and Lake Erie Railway and the Pittsburg and Western Railway, the latter operated by the Baltimore and Ohio Railway Company, pass through this township. There is one railway station-Mahoningtown.

In this township a vast amount of labor was expended on the canal, which is no longer in existence. The aqueduct over the Shenango was 330 feet in length, and its abutments, wings and piers were solidly constructed of heavy blocks of sandstone. There were four piers and the canal bed was built of plank, hung with heavy iron rods upon strong elliptical arches resting upon the piers. There were also within the township four or five locks constructed, of the same material as the aqueduct, in the most substantial manner.

Frisbie & Newell had a sawmill at one time about one mile above Moravia, but this, with other plants, disappeared when the canal was abandoned.


The first white settlement in the entire Beaver Valley was made within the limits of Taylor Township. This was the settlement of the famous Moravian Missionaries, Zeisberger and Senseman, with their Indian converts, about the 25th of April, 1770. They came from the mouth of the Tionesta Creek, now in Forest County, where they attempted to establish a mission, but failed for lack of success among the Indians of that region. They made the voyage in canoes down the Allegheny and Ohio, and up the Beaver rivers, and landed on the broad bottom land that spreads along the left bank of the Beaver at and above this point, upon the invitation of the great chief or king, Pack-an-kee, who gave them ground upon which to erect their log chapel and the dwellings necessary to accommodate their small company. They camped and commenced improvements on the ground a little west of where the hamlet of old Moravia now stands, but finding the location too low, and fearful of high water and malaria, they changed it some time in July following, to the west bank of the river, where they laid out a new town on ground elevated a hundred or more feet above the river. Here the settlement remained, making improvements and laboring among the Indians until the spring of 1773, when they abandoned their town and removed to the headwaters of the Muskingum, now in the State of Ohio.

Christian Frederick Post, another Moravian missionary, and the man who built the first dwelling, within the limits of the State of Ohio was a visitor to this township in 1758, when on his way to Kush-kush-kee, the great Indian town on the Mahoning.


The first white settlers in this region (after the Moravians) found the crumbling remains of an old fortification. It was a small, regular earthwork, enclosing about one acre of ground, located on land acquired by Thomas Brown. It has been plowed and worked over until no traces of it remain. It was undoubtedly thrown up by a company of French Soldiers, who frequently passed up and down this stream in their journeys between Ohio and the Canadas.

One of the early settlers, probably the earliest after the Moravians, was Hugh Gaston, who came into the valley as early as 1795-96, and settled temporarily on the 500-acre tract which included the ground now occupied by the hamlet of Moravia. This tract was originally owned by David R. Porter, afterwards governor of Pennsylvania. Robert Shannon, of Beavertown, purchased it about 1830, but it continued to be known as the "Gaston tract."

Mr. Gaston was a bachelor, and lived solitary and alone until his brother, James Gaston, came out with his family, about 1800, and moved into the cabin with him. He was known as a great hunter. The brothers removed to a tract of land in what is now the northwest corner of Shenango Township, about 1802-3. Their location was near what is now called "Normal Glen" or "Pumpkintown."

Another early settler who arrived about the same time as Hugh Gaston was Thomas Hendrickson, who, it is thought, settled at or near the present site of Mahoningtown, in 1798. He built and operated a primitive distillery at an early day, and afterwards removed to Plaingrove Township, where he died, about 1830.

John Butcher, a Revolutionary soldier, settled in the northeast part of the township of Taylor about 1800, his farm later being known as the William Sword farm.

Robert Sample visited the Beaver Valley at a very early period and purchased several tracts of the "Donation lands," but did not settle upon them. He returned to his home at Carlisle, Pa., where he soon after died. His sons, Samuel and James, came together and settled on these tracts, about 1807. Samuel and his brother-in-law, James McMurray, were in Captain Kildoo's Company during the War of 1812.

Joseph McMurray, a Revolutionary soldier, in 1808 settled on the land lately owned by Joseph Anderson, having come from near Chambersburg, Pa. Samuel Sample married his daugther, Esther, about 1809. Mr. McMurray lived on his place in the valley until his death in 1847. In 1810-11 there was a great flood in the Beaver River and its branches, and nearly all of the bottom lands were overflowed. It was the greatest inundation ever known to this section.

When the Samples and McMurrays first settled on the Beaver the country was wild and new and the only roads were Indian trails and bridle paths, with the exception, of the New Castle and Beaver State Road, which was laid out as early as 1800 but not worked very much for many years.

Joseph Pollock, from whom the Pollocks of New Castle are sprung, came to what is now Taylor Township, Lawrence County, about 1802. He came originally from Ireland, and his wife from Scotland. They were married in America previous to the Revolution, and lived in Westmoreland County for some years; he finally came to what was then Beaver County and located on land near Westfield Church, in the present township of North Beaver, in 1800, intending to settle permanently, but after a year or two, finding the title of his land defective, he gave it up and removed, about 1802, to the farm later owned by the Frisbie heirs in Taylor Township. He resided there until his death-about the year 1830-and was buried on his farm. His wife died about 1835 and was buried beside him in the little burial ground near the canal on the old farm. The family has been one of prominence in Lawrence County.

Seth Rigby, father of Seth Rigby, of Shenango Township, from Virginia, settled in Taylor Township on land afterwards purchased by Robert Sample. He did not purchase land in this township, but rented, and about 1806 purchased the land later owned by his son in Shenango Township.

Joseph Copper, Sr., from Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and originally from Kent County, Maryland, came to the Beaver Valley about 1800. He had five sons-Joseph, Jr., Nathaniel, Alexander, Ralph and Michael-all of whom except Joseph came with him. The latter came in 1804. These brothers settled along the Beaver River and at the mouth of the Mahoning. Joseph Copper, Jr., a weaver and shoemaker by trade, occupied a cabin on the "Gaston Tract" for about one year or a little more, then, in 1807, settled land about four miles below Moravia, on the Shenango and Beaver Road. He remained in this place about thirteen months, when he removed to the place after-ward owned by Mr. Anderson. In 1808 Mr. Copper and his uncle, Nathaniel Copper, removed to a tract of about 200 acres which they had purchased in North Beaver Township, about four miles west from Moravia. Joseph Copper, Sr., died in June, 1813, at the advanced age of 103 years. He was living with his son Ralph, who occupied what is now the English farm, but at the time of his death was at the home of his son Alexander, on what later was known as the "Zeigler farm."

Joseph Copper, Jr., who died in 1842 at the age of sixty-nine years, was in the army subsequent to the War of 1812. Samuel Copper worked on the canal during its construction and afterwards ran a boat.

Among the early settlers were Charles Morrow, who settled about a mile below Moravia, about 1800; two Johnsons, who settled near to John Butcher, about the same year, and Jack Tilton, a brother-in-law of the Johnsons, who came with them. John Miller and Dennis Kennecy settled early on a portion of the land which later formed a part of the William Sword farm. The McCall and Lewis families were early settlers, and the Camerons settled at the Forks as early as 1816.


About 1835-36 the village of Moravia was laid out near the ground at first occupied by the Moravians by Marcus T. C. Gould. It had always borne the same name, though it never had a post-office.

The first store in the place was established about 1838, a small grocery opened by a Mr. Justice, son of Jacob Justice, one of the early settlers. The first dry goods store was opened by Samuel Smith about 1843-44. The first tavern was kept by William Lawton, in 1835.

There have been two church organizations in the place, Methodists and Baptists. The latter built a church about 1836, which was used as a kind of free church for a while, being open to all denominations. A man named Dr. Winters was the prime mover in it. It was only kept up a few years. An account of the Methodist Church is given on another page of this history.

During the years of canal navigation this village was quite a point for business. Below it the Beaver River was mostly used for navigation purposes, under the slack-water system of dams and locks. The canal extended from this point up the river to New Castle, when the slack-water was again used on the Shenango for some distance. The "Cross-cut" Canal connected at Mahoningtown, and thence followed the Mahoning River into the State of Ohio. There were two locks on the canal at Moravia, the stone work of which remains solid and substantial at this time. The business at Old Moravia has, since the abandonment of the canal, departed to more favorable localities.

There is no school in the place, the nearest being about a half mile south.


William Simpson came from Butler County, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1836 and became the first settler as well as the first storekeeper in Mahoningtown, which now constitutes the Seventh Ward of the city of New Castle. The town was laid out in the spring of 1836 by William Hayes and Benjamin Darlington, of Pittsburg. These parties owned the 500-acre tract of "Donation lands," patented to the heirs of Colonel William Crawford for his military service. It included the site of Mahoningtown. Mr. Simpson lived about one mile west of the place on the Mount Jackson Road, but died years ago.

Samuel Vendivort, also from Butler County, Pennsylvania, settled in the place in September, 1837. He was a hatter by trade, and followed the business for some ten or twelve years after his arrival. Franklin Alexander, a blacksmith from Pittsburg, came about the same time. Henry Alace, a tailor from east of the mountains of Pennsylvania, came about 1839. John Simpson, a brother of William, came in 1838 and settled on a farm southwest of the town. He laid out a small addition to the place on the south side of "Cross-cut" Canal about 1840.

The "Cross-cut" Canal was commenced in 1836 and finished about 1838. It connected with the Beaver division of the Pennsylvania Canal at this point, and extended up the Mahoning River into the State of Ohio, making connections with the canal system of that State, and opening a direct route to the city of Cleveland on Lake Erie.

Archibald Newell settled in Mahoningtown in 1844, and was engaged in the mercantile business from that date until his death, the business thereafter being continued by his sons. He came to America from Ireland in 1837, and lived a few years in Crawford County previous to coming to this place.

John Wallace, from Mifflin Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, settled at Mahoningtown in 1842. He was born in Allegheny County, May 1, 1786, and lived to be over ninety years old. The Wallaces were originally from County Tyrone, Ireland. Mr. Wallace was in the service during the War of 1812, serving as a private in Captain Peter Stilley's company, raised in Allegheny County, and his brother-in-law, James Irwin, was first lieutenant in the same company. The company was stationed at Pittsburg for five months, guarding the British prisoners taken by Commodore-Perry on Lake Erie. Wallace drew a land warrant of 160 acres for his service, and this he sold for $160. He was a carpenter and builder by trade. When he came to Mahoningtown it consisted of two stores, one blacksmith and wagon shop, a Presbyterian church (or, at least, they held meetings), and a small cluster of dwellings. He worked at his trade twelve years, and then farmed for twenty-eight years. His wife died January 14, 1874, aged ninety-one years. The couple lived sixty-one years together, and reared ten children.


The first postmaster at Mahoningtown was John Gillespie, who came from Pittsburg and opened a store about 1841. He built the "Lawrence House" the next year.

The postmasters of the early days succeeding him were David Bower, Joseph Cox, Seth Blanchard, and Stephen Sherman. Mr. Cox settled here in 1850.


A school building was erected in 1838 on the hill one mile north of the town, but was abandoned when Mahoningtown was set off in a district by itself and a school building erected in the town in 1841.

During the period between 1833 and 1870 the canal business made the town a place of considerable importance, but with the abandonment of the canals much of its business was transferred to New Castle and other points.


James Raney built the first grist mill in Mahoningtown in 1852 on the "Cross-cut" Canal. He operated it about nine years, when he sold it to his son, L. Raney, who in turn sold it to Messrs. Genkinger & Kraft about 1865. After the transfer the mill was changed into a stave-factory, but was only operated as such about a year, when Mr. Genkinger purchased Mr. Kraft's interest and changed to the original business again. The mill contained three run of stone, had a capacity for grinding about 150 bushels in ten hours, and was run by steam. It is not now in existence.


James Raney built a dam over the Shenango at this point in June, 1873; it forms one-quarter of a circle, with the convex side facing the stream. Measured on the curve the length is 450 feet; in a straight line from one abutment to the other the distance is 400 feet. The dam is solidly constructed of timber, bolted to the bottom and pinned together so as to form a compact structure, strong enough to resist the powerful action of both water and ice in time of floods. The fall is four and one-half feet. In 1874 the race was excavated and the foundation of the mill laid. The mill was mostly completed in the autumn of 1875, and was at that time perhaps the best grist and flouring mill in Lawrence County, all things considered. The mill was built four stories in height, with four run of stone and fitted up in every department with the best machinery and appliances known to the business. The wheels in use were of Mr. Raney's own invention and construction, upon which he had letters patent. Mr. Raney had been a practical millwright and miller for forty consecutive years, and had constructed in his day five new flouring and grist mills, and repaired many others. In 1852-53 he laid out an addition to Mahoningtown. The mill owned and operated by Raney & Co. did a flourishing business, its capacity being about fifty barrels per day.


The number of school buildings in Taylor Township is three, in which there are taught an average of seven months in the year. There are three teachers employed, and the total number of scholars is 113. The total receipts for school teachers during the year 1908 were $1,076, and the total expenditures for all purposes during the same time, $11,197.39.


The Presbyterian Church at Mahoningtown was organized May 14, 1866, with thirty-five members; received a certificate from other churches, twenty-eight from the First Church of New Castle, four from Westfield, and the balance from other churches. The first elders were John Sword and A. D. Simpson, and soon after James Moffatt was added. The first board of trustees consisted of John Simpson, Thomas Sample and Samuel Vandivort. The first church building was erected during the summer and fall of 1866 at a cost of about $4,000. It was fully completed and paid for by the 10th of March, 1867, on which day it was dedicated. Rev. D. L. Dickey, the first pastor, commenced his labors November 1, 1867, and continued a number of years; when he resigned his charge, Rev. J. R. Andrews succeeded him on the 1st of April, 1871, and continued until his death, which occurred several years ago. A union Sabbath-school was organized as early as 1846 in Mahoningtown by this denomination and the Methodists, which was kept up with little interruption until it was finally merged in the Presbyterian congregation. The school at the present time (1908) consists of about fourteen officers and teachers and 120 scholars. It has a small but select library. The parsonage was purchased in 1871 at an expense of $2,500. The society is entirely out of debt and in a very prosperous financial condition. A new brick building has been erected in recent years.

The Methodist Episcopal Church at Mahoningtown was organized about 1858 with some eight members-John D. Pitzer and wife, John Balmer and wife, Joseph Cox and wife, Mrs. Jane Wallace and Mrs. Eve Forney.

The church building was erected some time previous to the organization of the society at a cost of about $4,500-finished and paid for. The first pastor was Rev. Allen Crowell, who preached for two years and was succeeded by Rev. Johnson, who only staid one year. Rev. John Crawford followed and remained for two years and was succeeded by Rev. John Cruman, who remained two years. Rev. Richard Bear succeeded him. The present membership numbers about sixty, and the society maintains a Sabbath-school with ten officers and teachers and sixty-two scholars. The school has a small library.


Among the earliest Methodists in Moravia were Michael Pitzer and wife, John C. Ault (a local preacher), Mrs. Mary Robertson, Rhoda Boyle and Lydia Phillips.

The church building was erected about 1846-47. Thomas Robertson and Patterson White were the contractors. The first preacher was Rev. Gideon Kinnear, under whose auspices the church was built and a society gathered. Succeeding him were Revs. Hawkins, Monroe, J. Somerville (occasionally), Bennett, James Shields, S. K. Paden, John McCombs, Foster Boyd, S. K. Shattuck, Shurick, Marstellar, J. E. Johnston, James Foster, Morris, Moore, J. H. Merchant, Brown, Crawford, etc.

There was a small Baptist organization at this place for a few years subsequent to 1836. A man known as Dr. Winters was a prominent member, and was chiefly instrumental in building a small church. Henry Frazier probably preached the first sermon at this place, as he lived in the vicinity a portion of the time while pastor at Providence, Beaver County. William Tindall, Joseph Brown, Elizabeth Brown and Isaac Jones and his wife were among the first Baptists here.

On the 15th of August, 1818, privilege was granted by Providence Church to their members living on the west side of Beaver River to organize a branch. The church was constituted by William Stone, Jonathan Davis and Samuel Williams in 1831, and numbered twenty-two members. Their first pastor was William Stone, in 1832, and he was succeeded successively by Isaac Barris, John Winter, Levi Ross, Daniel Daniels, John McConahy, Gabriel Lanham, John McConahy, Gabriel Lanham, John Davis, Rev. Melvin Nye and Rev. John Owens. The members who served as deacons of this church were Robert Aiken, James Book, Henry Crider, Zachariah Tindall, Jacob Book. The meeting-house is located about two miles below Wampum. The first meetings of the congregation were held in a coalhouse for some years. This congregation has been disbanded.

Source:   History of New Castle and Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1908, p. 340-346

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