Union Township,
Lawrence County, Pa History

This township was erected from portions of Mahoning, Neshannock and Taylor Townships on the 10th of December, 1859. It contains a little over nine square miles or about 6,000 acres, and is the second smallest township in the county. It is bounded on the north by Mahoning Township and the Shenango River, on the South by Taylor Township and the Mahoning River, on the east by the Shenango River, and on the west by Mahoning Township and the Mahoning River.

Lying between the Shenango and Mahoning Rivers, the surface is made up of lands descending on both sides towards these streams. On the east and north the declination is comparatively gradual towards the Shenango, but on the Southwest the descent is much more abrupt into the valley of the Mahoning. There are considerable bottoms in both these rivers, and the land generally throughout the township is of a very superior quality. The minor streams are all small, the largest being Sankey's Run, in the northwest part of the township which discharges into the Shenango.

There is an abundance of limestone in this township, particularly along the bluffs of the Mahoning River, which in many places are very precipitous. Coal is found in several localities, and has been quite extensively mined on the Wallace farm, in the southwestern part of the township.

There is no improved water-power at present in the township. The bed of the abandoned Cross-cut Canal follows the valley of the Mahoning, this canal being an important and busy thoroughfare in the years from 1838 to about 1871, when it was abandoned.

The Erie and Pittsburg Railway traverses the township its whole length on the eastern side along the valley of the Shenango River. There are two stations on this road within the limits of the township, to-wit: the main New Castle station and Harbor Bridge station, at the old Western Reserve harbor on the Shenango along the terminus of the canal.

At an early date the great "Scrub-Grass Road" was opened, by commissioners appointed by the State, from Venango County across Lawrence to Youngstown, Ohio, passing diagonally through what is now Union Township, in a northwesterly direction, and is still known as the "State Road." A beautiful portion of the city of New Castle, now constituting the Sixth Ward of this city, and generally known as West New Castle, was formerly a part of Union Township. It has a fine location, overlooking the whole city, from which it rises gradually towards the west, extending more than a mile west of the bridge, and a greater distance up and down the, river. There are many picturesque and charming locations for residences, and the population now exceeds 4,000 people.

Among the many beautiful localities Greenwood Cemetery is deserving of particular mention; and a mile and a half northwest from the Washington Street bridge is St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, laid out on a very commanding site.

One wooden bridge, known as the "Black Bridge" (at the point), connects the township with the city of New Castle. This is one of the last wooden-covered bridges left in the county. Another crosses the Mahoning at Mahoningtown (Seventh Ward) on the road leading to Mount Jackson. A modern iron bridge recently built serves to connect Union with Neshannock Township.

This township is the thickest settled of any in the county, and has, perhaps, increased more rapidly since its formation than any other. This is owing to its close proximity to the city, the privileges and advantages of which the people enjoy. An addition to West New Castle (now Sixth Ward) was laid out by Phillips & Du Shane in 1868.


Undoubtedly the first white settlers within the present limits of Union Township were Cornelius Hendrickson and his son Daniel, who came probably in 1798 and erected cabins on the river, one above and the other below the present Washington Street. Daniel built his cabin on land afterwards washed away in November, 1835, at a time when a great flood threatened to submerge the borough of New Castle, and the river was turned around the west end of where is now the iron bridge to let the waters have a freer passage.

During his residence in New Castle Cornelius was known as Dr. Hendrickson, as he administered to the ills of the community, although not a regular physician. He located fifty acres and twenty and six-tenths perches of land when he settled, it being a portion of the "vacancy" lying between the first and second districts of "Donation lands." He also claimed the whole of the "vacancy" lying west of the Shenango River, and containing, by actual measurement, 117 acres and thirty-eight perches. About 1818 he sold or transferred his claim to Ebenezer Byers and George McDowell, who afterwards obtained the patent.

The Hendricksons established a canoe ferry on the Shenango about opposite the present North Street when they first arrived. The young man, Daniel, managed the ferry, and frequently accommodated parties going and coming on the river with canoes, going himself as far as Beaver Falls at times. The old doctor and his son, Cornelius, Jr., after a few years emigrated to Ohio, probably about 1818 or 1820. (A further account of the Hendricksons is given in the history of New Castle.)

Ezekiel Sankey, Sr., was perhaps the first permanent settler within the limits of the present township. His ancestors were from near Warrington, in Lancashire, England, from whence they emigrated to America and settled in the Kishacoquillas Valley, now in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, where his father died in 1794. He and his mother were appointed as executors of his father's will. Soon after the death of his father he removed to a place called Potter's Mills, in Center County, and, after a short residence there, removed to the Chartiers Valley, in Washington County, Pennsylvania, where he bought a farm and remained until 1800, when he removed to the farm at the mouth of "Sankey's Run," now in Union Township, Lawrence County. The territory of Union Township was then in Mercer County, recently erected, and Mr. Sankey was the first sheriff of the said county that was elected by the people-William Byers, the first sheriff, having been appointed by the Governor in 1803.

Mr. Sankey was major of one of the Pennsylvania militia regiments. When enlistments were sought for service in the War of 1812 he and William Sheriff, from the same township, were the only ones from the regiment who responded. Major Sankey was appointed to a position in the commissary department of General Crook's Brigade, which was organized at Pittsburg. After a short visit to Erie to learn what the British were contemplating in that quarter he rejoined Crook's Brigade at Mansfield, Ohio. He afterwards accompanied a portion of it as far west as the Rapids of the Maumee, where Harrison afterwards, in February, 1813, constructed the famous Fort Meigs. Here he remained during the winter of 1812-13, and returned home in the spring and soon afterwards went to Mercer upon business. While there his health, which had suffered severely by the rigor of the winter and exposure in the camp, gave way, and after lying there for some time was removed to his home, where he lingered until his death the 13th day of July of that year. A grandson of Major Sankey was the late Ira D. Sankey, a co-worker with D. L. Moody, his name and fame as a singer of Gospel hymns being world wide. The formation of Lawrence County and the township of Union was brought about mainly by the influence of David Sankey, youngest son of Major Sankey, and a man of great prominence in this section of the State, with the development of which his name is inseparably linked.

Ezekiel Sankey, brother of David, in May, 1836, laid out the town of West New Castle. He became a man of prominence and was intimately connected with a great variety of important enterprises which have built up the busy city of New Castle, its schools, manufactures and banks, and was also closely connected with the politics of the city and county.

The Wallace family was originally from the neighborhood of Londonderry or Donegal, in Ireland, from whence John Wallace emigrated to America about 1765 and settled at Alexandria, Va. Mr. Wallace was a linen merchant, and carried on the business for a short time in Alexandria, where he married Mary Alexander. Soon after he removed from Virginia to Bedford County, Pennsylvania, where he purchased a farm, which he cultivated, also trading and speculating more or less in lands. After a few years' residence he sold and removed to the Ligonier Valley, in Westmoreland County, where he purchased a tract of land and resided until driven away by the Indians subsequent to the revolution. He served in short enlistments at various times during the war. When driven from Westmoreland he settled in Washington County, Pennsylvania, some four or five miles from Williamsport, now Monongahela City, on Peter's Creek, near the present line between Washington and Allegheny Counties. He served at various periods against the Indians, and was one of the party who constructed the original Fort McIntosh, at the mouth of the Beaver River. He died in Washington county in 1808 or 1809.

John Wallace, with his oldest son, Robert, visited the Slippery Rock Valley (then in Allegheny County, now in Lawrence) the fall of 1797, and was so well pleased with it he located 440 acres of land in the "vacancy" lying between the first and second districts of "Donation lands." His son Robert settled on the land at that time and remained. In 1801 his father visited the Mahoning Valley and purchased about 400 acres opposite where the town of Edenburg has since been built. In 1807 he married Elizabeth Reader, of Washington County. After his marriage he rented the property in Slippery Rock for about two years and lived in Washington County. About 1809 he returned to Slippery Rock and resided there until 1827, when he removed to the land lately owned by his son, William R. Wallace, there remaining to the time of his death, which occurred February 12, 1847. He served during the War of 1812 two terms in Captain McCune's company, which went to Erie. During his last term he was promoted to captain of the company in place of Captain McCune, resigned. His commission was issued in the fall of 1814. After the war he served in the State militia with the rank of captain for fourteen years.

William R. Wallace, son of Robert Wallace, was captain of the same company of militia which his father formerly commanded from 1836 to 1842; then was elected colonel of the Twenty-seventh Pennsylvania Militia, which office he held until 1849, when the system was abandoned. He held the office of county commissioner from 1852 until 1855, and also the office of justice of the peace for eleven years, from 1856 to 1861, and from 1866 to 1871.

There is a fine little island in the Mahoning a few rods above the Wallace farm. Across the river, near where Edenburg now stands, was the famous Indian village of Kush-kush-kee, and a remarkable mound, constructed, no doubt, by the pre-historic people known as the "mound-builders."


This well known locality on the State Road from New Castle to Youngstown, Ohio, was first settled in the fall of 1800 by a colony from Virginia consisting of William Park and his sons John, James and William, Jr., Joseph Brown and family, and Thomas Franklin, a son-in-law of Park. They were all from Berkeley County, and the men had been out the previous year and purchased the land under a "joint article" of one John Chenowith, a Virginian, and father of Arthur Chenowith who afterwards settled in New Castle. Joshua Chenowith, brother of Arthur, came at a later day, and lived in the settlement until his death. The land purchased by the company amounted to 300 acres. William Park, Sr., died about 1806 or 1807, and several of his descendants are now living in Edenburg.

Joseph Brown resided at "Parkstown" until about 1813, when he removed to what was called the Mayberry farm, on the Shenango River, and in 1814 removed to New Castle. He was a tanner by trade and rented William Dickson's tannery and operated it for two years, when, finding the business unprofitable, he gave it up. He was subsequently located on different farms in the county, and at his death lived on the farm which his son, William Brown, afterwards owned, in the present township of Mahoning, one mile north of Edenburg. He died about 1850 at the age of ninety years. Mr. Brown was adjutant of a militia regiment previous to the War of 1812. He and James Park were out together at Erie during the War of 1812. Subsequent to the war he served for some time in the State militia.

A man named Isaac Bryson settled at the mouth of the little run above Grant Street bridge soon after 1800. Joseph Cox and Samuel, his son, also settled in this township about 1802-03. A brother-in-law of Cox, William Miller, settled on the Cameron farm south of the district line about the same time.

Among other early settlers were William Young, who came from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and settled the place now owned by the Young heirs, and others, on the New Castle and Youngstown Road, about 1810. Shubael Wilder came to this vicinity from Massachusetts in 1838 and was engaged in erecting the Aetna Iron Works during that and the succeeding year. He was more or less identified with the manufacturing and commercial interests of New Castle.

The Crawfords-Alexander L., George W., John M. and James A.-came about 1840-41, and were also identified with the great business interests of the city. Two of the brothers, George W. and James A., resided in Union Township, where they owned valuable property. Alexander L. lived in Taylor Township on a splendid farm just south of the Union Township line. John M. lived in New Castle several years, then moved to and lived in Philadelphia, Pa., where he died several years since.

John McComb, from Washington County, Pennsylvania, settled in the township of Mahoning, one mile above Edenburg, about 1806, and lived there some ten years, when he traded for a farm about a mile below Edenburg, in what is now Union Township, living there until his death in November, 1866, at the age of eighty-six years. Mr. McComb was clerk in the old "Seceder" Church in New Castle for twenty years, commencing with its organization under Rev. Alexander Murray.

John Fulkerson, from Virginia, settled in this township about 1810.

John Ray settled at a very early date on the Shenango River about two miles above New Castle. The Rays afterwards removed to Hickory Township, and eventually to some of the Western States.

This township shares with Washington Township the distinction of not having within its limits a single church congregation. The people attend church outside their own limits-at New Castle, Mahoningtown, Edenburg, the "Harbor," and possibly elsewhere, and are liberal in support of religious institutions.


The earliest school in the township was a subscription school, opened in 1806, in "Parkstown," and the first teacher was a man named Shearer, an Irishman. The school building was of round logs, and some of the scholars came a distance of three miles to attend. It was not kept up very long, for the few scattered settlers were not able to pay the necessary teachers. The schools are now in good condition and a competent corps of instructors is employed.

There are at the present time nine school buildings in the township, with an enrollment of 261 pupils. The total amount raised for school purposes in 1908 was $4,894.03, and the amount paid to teachers, $3,540.


The Beaver division of the canal was completed to this point in the fall of 1833, and, being the "head of navigation," it at once became an important point. It was so named for the reason that all the freighting and passenger business from and to the rich region known as the "Western Reserve," in the northeastern part of Ohio, made this its shipping and forwarding point. Great quantities of merchandise-cheese, black salts and every kind of commodity entering into the general business of the country-were handled here. Large quanties of sandstone for building purposes were also shipped over the canal from some point near Pittsburg and landed at the "Harbor" and hauled thence by teams, of which hundreds were frequently on the ground at once. It was a place of great business activity and the volume of business transacted exceeded that of New Castle for many years. This activity ceased with the going of the canal and the place is now but a quiet farming Community.

F. J. Clark from Bridgewater, Beaver County, erected the first warehouse in either 1834 or 1835. It was on the north side of Sankey's Run, and Mr. Clark did a general forwarding and commission business. David Sankey erected a second warehouse on the south side of the run about the year 1836, and also built a bridge over the run at his own expense to facilitate his trade and accommodate the customers. He did a general forwarding and commission business and was agent for a line of boats called the "Greenville Line." Mr. Clark was agent for a line owned by G. M. Horton & Company.

The two agents did a rival business for a few months, when Mr. Clark came to Mr. Sankey and made a proposition that he should take charge of his business and also take the agency of the other lines. He offered Mr. Sankey a good salary, and the latter finally accepted the proposition. He carried on the business for a year with such satisfaction that Mr. Clark offered him a partnership, which he accepted, though he still continued as agent for the "Greenville Line." Soon after G. M. Horton & Company bought the "Greenville Line," and from this time until the canal was completed to Greenville, in 1840, Mr. Sankey handled the whole business at "The Harbor" with profit to the company and himself, and to the general satisfaction of the people.

A town was laid out at this point about 1835 by Thomas Allison, and quite a number of lots sold. There were two hotels, one a frame building, the other partly frame and partly logs. A general store was also kept by Samuel J. Bolby, and there was a blacksmith shop in or near the town. There were not many buildings erected, for the people soon saw that upon the completion of the canal their business must necessarily leave them.

Mr. Sankey was elected to the State Senate in the fall of 1847. During his term of office complaints came from the lumbermen on the French Creek, on account of the dams built by the canal company on the creek to furnish water to the feeder not having "slides" or arrangements for running rafts over them, and Mr. Sankey framed a bill requiring the company to build the necessary "slides" and "chutes," and also incorporated a clause requiring them to build a bridge over the Shenango River at "Western Reserve Harbor."

He was contractor for the latter work, and built a substantial frame bridge about 1852-3, which stood until 1905-6, when it was replaced by a new steel structure. He also procured an act of Assembly authorizing the county commissioners to take charge of it, and it was turned over to them ready for use without expense to the county. After the canal was completed to Greenville, "The Harbor" was abandoned as a shipping point, and the warehouse erected by Mr. Sankey was moved to another locality and used as a stable for a long time. The canal dam at New Castle, which backed the water up six miles, was torn away about 1873.

Source:   History of New Castle and Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1908, p. 347-352

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