PAGenWeb > Clearfield > Townships > Burnside History



Clearfield County PAGenWeb



Burnside Township History

Named for Honorable Thomas Burnside, then president judge of the Fourth Judicial District




History of Clearfiled County, Pennsylvania: with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers by Lewis Cass Aldrich Syracuse, N.Y.:  D. Mason, 1887, pp. 478-495. 








THIS township occupies a position in the extreme southwest corner of the county, having as its south boundary Cambria county, and as its west boundary Indiana county. The township is bounded on the north by Bell, and on the east by Chest township, from the latter of which it was taken in the year 1835. Chest, the mother township, was taken from the still older ones, Beccaria and Pike, nine years earlier, in the year 1826.


The proceedings, under which the township was erected, were instituted in the year 1834, by the presentation of a petition to the Court of Quarter Sessions, asking for a division of Pike and Chest, and the formation of a new township therefrom. This plan seems to have met with disfavor from some of the residents of the townships affected, who presented a further petition, asking that a township be formed on the west side of Chest, and along its north boundary. This, in turn, was followed by a third application, requesting a further division, which last petition, inasmuch as it refers to the subject-matter of this chapter, will be appropriately mentioned at this time :


" To the Honorable, Thomas Burnside, Esquire, President, and his associates, now composing the Court of Quarter Sessions of the peace, and Court of Common Pleas at Clearfield town, in and for the county of Clearfield : A petition of divers inhabitants of Chest township, in said county of Clearfield, humbly represents that they understand that there has been a division of said Chest -township at the last court, and if it should be confirmed as the lines appear to be laid out, it will be very inconvenient for a great number of the inhabitants.


"We therefore pray your honorable court to divide the township so as to give each new township an equal share of the population; to begin at the Cherry Tree and extend north along the county line six miles and make a corner, and strike a line due east across the township; then continue north along the county line the same distance, and there make a corner; and start a line due east across the township that would leave the upper or south end for ' Cherry township,' the middle for Chest, and the lower for Bell township. Then each township would have an equal share of the population, and an equal share of the unseated lands. We, your petitioners, pray your honorable court to appoint three disinterested persons to view and lay out the townships agreeable to the wishes of the people, and they will forever pray, etc. Signed, Abraham Schamp, John Teeples, Robert Pennington, James Gallaher, Joseph R. Bouslaugh, Daniel Branchler, George W. King, John King, William Dunlap, John McCullough, O. W. Coffey, David Fulton, jr., and Hugh Gallaher."


This request, like the others bearing on the division, was referred to the viewers, Alexander B. Reed, James Allport and David Ferguson, who, by their report, dated February 4, 1834, made the division of the territory, but not strictly according to the prayer of the petitioners. Burnside was laid out, having a length north and south of eight miles and one hundred and fifty perches, and of a width, east and west, of six miles. The report of the commissioners was confirmed by the court on the 4th day of May, 1835, and the township was named " Burnside," in honor of Hon. Thomas Burnside, then president judge of the Fourth Judicial District.


Had the request of the petitioners been carried out in full, this township would have been called " Cherry," so intended on account of its situation in the vicinity of the " Cherry Tree," the head-waters of canoe navigation on the West Branch, as mentioned in the land treaties between the proprietaries of the province and the Indian occupants, a hundred years ago. The viewers evidently thought another name to be preferable, and suggested that of "Burnside," which suggestion was made in writing and attached to their report. Modesty, undoubtedly, forbade his honor, Judge Burnside, from so naming the township, and that office was performed by Moses Boggs, one of the associate judges then sitting.


The historic reminiscences of Burnside township, as already intimated, date back over one hundred years, to the purchase from the Indians in 1768, which included all south (here east) of the Susquehanna River, as far up as a canoe could be pushed, which terminated at a cherry tree on the west bank of the river, a little above where the bridge in Cherry Tree borough now crosses. The purchase extended thence west as far as could be traveled between sun and sun. This day's journey was an extraordinary one, reaching the Allegheny River near where Kittanning now stands, about fifty miles ; from thence all southward between the river and Mason's and Dixon's line was included. This left a narrow strip of Burnside west of the river, which was not acquired by purchase until sixteen years after, in the purchase of 1784, which included the northwestern corner of the State to the New York line. The river from Cherry Tree only diverges about one mile from due north till it leaves the township, and Chest Creek is only about a mile from the township line on the east, the river valley, with its branches, and the dividing ridge between the river and creek, being nearly all within this township.


The river at Burnside is about 1,300 feet above sea level, and the ridge only about 400 feet more at the highest point. About five miles from the river, on the west, is the dividing ridge of the Atlantic slope, the waters on the other side flowing west and south to the Gulf of Mexico.


The whole extent of the township was originally covered with a forest of pine and hemlock, with oak, chestnut, sugar maple, ash, beech and cherry, especially on the ridges.


About sixty years ago the early settlers commenced to hew and run rafts of pine timber to market at Marietta, below Harrisburg. In later years it has been cut into saw-logs and driven to the booms at Lock Haven and Williamsport where it is manufactured.


The whole of the township is also underlaid with coal, which has been worked for home consumption for many years. Most of the coal right has recently been purchased by speculators, and the prospect is, that in the near future, the iron track will be laid to transport it to less favored localities by nature. The Bell's Gap Railroad now is within four miles of the township, in the river valley, and the Chest Creek Road, now being built, is within less than a mile on the east side.


Within two miles of Burnside, on northwest, are coal veins now opened, from six to eight feet in thickness, the natural outlet of which is by the river valley.


The first settler in the township was James Gallaher, who came in 1816, when it was part of Beccaria township. His first improvement was on what is now the farm of J. M. Cummings, in New Washington. He held the office of justice of the peace, and was the legal authority for all the neighborhood for many years. He is remembered as a tall, active man, and retained his faculties to a great age. He died in 1854, aged ninety-five years. His son James was a boy of about sixteen when he came with his father and helped make the first improvement. The first preaching in the township was in Mr. Gallaher's cabin in 1822, by Rev. John Bowen, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Thus early did the Methodist itinerant follow up the early settler. James, jr., was married to a daughter of Jacob Lee, another early settler of the neighborhood, and had several children, all of whom are dead but the youngest daughter, Maggie, who married Dr. McCune, and lives near Winchester, W. Va. After his wife's death he was married a second time to Mrs. Kelly, widow of James Kelly, a well known lumberman, father of James Kelly, esq., by whom he had two sons and two daughters. Mr. Gallaher died in 1880, aged seventy- nine years. He was a deep thinker, and a man of sound judgment. He had accumulated considerable property, principally in timber lands. His widow lives in a fine residence in New Washington.


Crawford, another son, moved many years ago to Virginia, and died years ago. He has one daughter living in Burnside, the wife of Jos. S. Neff, and one son, G. W., in New Washington, who has one son and four daughters, three of whom are school teachers.


Caleb Bailey came about 1820, and made a small improvement and patented about four hundred acres of land, part of which is now the Smith and Eisenhower farms, two miles east of Burnside. He remained until 1826, when he sold and removed to Union township and lived with his son Samuel. He died only about a year ago.


As nearly as can now be ascertained George Atchison came and settled on the river bank, above Burnside, in 1820, when there was no neighbor nearer than New Washington, and no settler along the river from Greenwood Bell's to Cherry Tree. Perhaps no man did more to mould the sentiments of the community in which he lived than Mr. Atchison. He was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, about 1792. When quite young he was out gunning and shot some game on a gentleman's estate. To avoid a prosecution under the oppressive tenant laws he came to this country and made his way to Centre county, where he stayed some years and married. With his wife and one child he traveled over the mountains to get a home, and began an improvement in the wilderness. He often left wife and child, or children, for weeks alone, although wild animals, bear and wolf, were numerous, and went back to Centre county to find work, bringing on his back the purchase of his earnings. He took up a large tract of land and had many law suits to hold possession. His hatred of oppression prompted him to adopt the anti-slavery, or abolition cause, and he was one of the conductors of the " Under-Ground Railroad " (as it was called), secretly helping runaway slaves to escape to freedom. About 1845 he built a fine house on the side hill near his log cabin, and had a secret apartment built in it to hide runaways, which was not discovered until about two years ago, although the house has been occupied for many years by different families.


The house was built as two houses, the gable of one against the side of the other, and a story lower, and a hall at one side of the upper house. Just at the stair landing a space three or four feet wide is taken off. extending the width of hall and stairs with no access from inside except a small aperture half way up the wall of the room adjoining, about large enough for a little cupboard or recess for a clock. On the outside, just above the roof of the lower house is a small four light window which can be seen from the river, but no one ever seemed to observe that it did not show light on the inside, until very recently when the false room was discovered.


When the principle of Squatter Sovereignty was adopted for Kansas in 1855 and 1856, Mr. Atchison took his son William and his son-in-law, Joseph Lovelace, to Kansas, and got them land there to help the cause of freedom. His son afterward returned and is living now in Du Bois.


Some years before his death he moved to Cherry Tree, where he died in peace, having seen the desire of his heart, the abolition of slavery.


The McKeague brothers at Cherry Tree are his grandsons. Mr. Atchison was a large, bony man, rather uncouth, very plain spoken, approaching bluntness, but with a kind heart and very hospitable. He was, early in life, a member of the Methodist Church, but such was his hatred of slavery he would not remain in a church allowing fellowship with slave-holders, and united with the Wesleyan Methodist Church, in which he remained during the rest of his life. He was buried in the Cherry Tree cemetery. His wife died only two or three years ago, being the last of the original settlers.


Samuel McKeehan took up a piece of land adjoining Bailey's, and lived on it many years alone. His house was on the side of the public road where Mrs. Anderson, a granddaughter, now lives. One night his house caught fire and burned, and the old man was found next day cooking alongside the road, where he continued to stay, sleeping in a little pen he had for some of his stock for a couple of years, until his death, about 1840.


John Byers came in 1821, from Huntingdon county, and took up four hundred acres of land about a mile from New Washington, where his grandson, David Byers, now lives. He was born at Valley Forge, on the Schuylkill, above Philadelphia, in 1762 ; was a boy of fifteen when General Washington's army was quartered there, and had a distinct recollections of their privations during that memorable winter. He died at his son-in-law's, John Mahaffey, near Cherry Tree, in 1862, at the advanced age of almost ninety-nine years.


His son Lemuel was a boy of twelve years when they came from Huntingdon, and often recounted the hardships of the early settlers.


Smith's Mills (at Janesville) was for a long time their nearest mill, and when the streams were swollen they could not cross, there being then no bridges. Sometimes their grain had to be ground on a hand-mill. Deer and wild turkeys were plenty and afforded a part of their subsistence. Lemuel was married in 1838 to Mrs. Stephenson, mother of James Stephenson, of Bell township, at the house of her uncle, George Atchison. James was then about ten years old. Mrs. Byers raised a family of five sons and four daughters, and had a farm under cultivation of nearly two hundred acres. He died in 1873, in his seventy-fourth year. His wife preceded him only a year. Only one of his sons, David, is in the township, on the old homestead. The three daughters living are in the neighborhood : Ellen, married to Russell Rorabaugh ; Sarah to Joseph Hutton, and Maggie to David T. Mitchell. About a year ago one of the sons, Robert, was returning from Kansas, where he had acquired considerable property, and had written to his brother David when to expect him. He had reached Blairsville intersection, and in crossing the track while waiting for the Indiana train, the limited express came flying along and struck him, throwing him about a hundred feet, partly under the waiting train. When taken up he was dead.


John, another son of John Byers, sr., was married about 1830, to Sarah, daughter of John Weaver, of Bell township, and settled adjoining his father's land on the west, where he reared a large family. He was one of the original members of the Methodist Protestant Church at its formation in 1829, and was a very intelligent, well-read man. The first camp meeting held in the township was on his land in 1834, and another the year following, at which many embraced religion. It is a noticeable fact that most of the early settlers of the upper Susquehanna were moral, God-fearing men, who carried their morality and religion with them to their new homes, and their descendants show the same traits of character to a remarkable degree. John Byers, jr., died in 1881, aged seventy- nine.


Samuel, another son of John, sr., settled on a piece of land adjoining his father's on the south, and raised a large family, some of whom still reside in the township. He died many years ago.


Another son, George, moved west at an early day. The only daughter, Ellen, was married to John Mahaffey about 1831 or '32. They first lived at the old Mahaffey improvement (now Burnside borough), but soon after moved to a mile below Cherry Tree, where they still both reside. Mrs. Mahaffey is almost as lively and cheerful as in her youthful days, and highly esteemed by all.


Jacob Lee came in 1822, from Centre county, with his family, and settled about a mile south from New Washington. His house was early a preaching place for the Methodists. Bellefonte circuit then embraced all this county. In 1823, a preacher by name of Samuel Bryson, was holding religious services at Mr. Lee's house. During the prayer he noticed that a pet squirrel the family had, made its escape through the open window. Anxious to let the family know of the escape, he hastily attached it to the closing, thus : " Amen. Jacob, your squirrel's gone." Mr. Lee died in 1847, aged seventy-seven years. His son Isaac still lives on the old homestead, an aged man now. Several of Isaac's sons live in the township. Eliza, a daughter of Jacob, was married to John Irvin, of Curwensville, and is still living but very infirm. Five of their children are living : Col. John, Jared, James, Mrs. Dr. Thompson and Miss Annie. Another daughter, Rebecca, was married to Hugh Riddle, in Centre county, several years before the family moved from there.


Hugh Riddle was born in County Down in the north of Ireland, in 1779 ; came to the United States about the time of the Irish rebellion in 1798, and lived awhile with his brother William, at Bellefonte. His brother had come some years before. While there he went to Wilmington, Delaware, after his baggage, and there being no public conveyance, he started on horseback and reached the Susquehanna at Clark's Ferry, near the mouth of the Juniata, where the river is a mile wide. Having recently crossed the ocean, the distance over the Susquehanna seemed insignificant, and urging his horse forward he entered the stream. The current was strong, and horse and rider were swept down the river, till fortunately the horse rested on a large rock that was but two or three feet below the surface. After resting a while he pushed forward again, and by a desperate struggle succeeded in reaching the shore, where he found several persons who had been watching him in his perilous adventure and expecting to see him drown. He was carried down the river more than a mile. An account of this undertaking was published by the newspapers of the time, and it has ever since been regarded as a feat performed by no other man.


He was for many years employed as superintendent of the iron works of Roland Curtin, father of Gov. Curtin. In 1814 he married Miss Rebecca Lee, (daughter of Jacob) and followed farming till 1824, he removed to Clearfield county and settled near his father-in-law. Part of Mount Zion cemetery was taken off his land in 1830. He taught school in his own house some years after, by voluntary subscription, before there were any public schools. The Mitchells, Byers, Huttons and other of the early familes [sic] were taught by him. He was an exemplary citizen, a member of the M. E. church, and highly respected. He died in 1856, aged seventy-seven years. Of his nine children all are now dead but John M., who resides not far from the old homestead; a man of sound judgment and highly respected by all. He has held for years the responsible position of township treasurer. He has two sons, Fillmore, who owns the old McMurray farm in New Washington, and James, who lives with his father. One daughter is married to John E. Rorabaugh, and one, Thirza, still lives with her parents.


James, another son of Hugh, was married to Margaret Fulton, daughter of one of the old settlers on the river. He was justice of peace many years, and died about thirteen years ago, leaving two sons, Hugh and Alexander, who live in the neighborhood.


Mary, oldest daughter of Hugh, sr., was married to John Rorabaugh, and died in 1871. Three of their sons, Russell, Wesley and Britain, are living in the township, one, James, at Lumber City. There is a family genealogy lately published, gotten up by one of the Riddle family living in Boston, which traces the family back over a thousand years, to the time of Charles the Bold of France, A. D. 860, through the old Norman stock, some branches of which are in England, Ireland, Scotland, and in many of the United States. The family name was Ridel, changed in the course of time through Riddell, Ridlon, Ridley until finally Riddle. They held many high positions both in church and state in Great Britain. The different family coats of arms are represented in the work referred to, a copy of which is in the possession of John M. Bishop Ridley, the martyr, was of one branch of this family. Rev. Finley B. Riddle, a well-known minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, is a first cousin of John M. Riddle.


David Fulton came from Centre county in 1823, and settled on part of the McKeehan land along the river below the upper Burnside bridge. He must have been quite a woodsman, for as early as 1799, he made a trip from Milesburg, in Centre county, to Westmoreland, striking the Susquehanna at Curwensville, when there was only one house there, and traveled up the river through an unbroken wilderness with only his gun for protection. At Chest Falls he killed a panther, and near where Burnside is located he killed a bear. Here he left the river and struck across the country to Indiana, a distance of over fifty miles, at that time without a house.


Mr. Fulton had two sons and two daughters when he moved from Centre county. For some years after coming he and George Atchison would return in the fall and cut cord wood for the furnaces of Centre.


An old sailor, called Johnny White, came with Mr. Fulton, who cared for him many years without any apparent recompense. He was about ninety years of age ; sometimes made splint baskets to sell when he could. The old man often told a story of one of his acts on shipboard, which seemed to affect him very much in its recital. One of the officers on s hipboard was very tyrannical and abusive, and the sailors got a great dislike to him. One day when White was aloft in the rigging, this officer came on deck directly underneath him. White let the marlinspike he was working with fall perpendicularly, and it pinned the officer to the deck by the toe of his boot. Of course, it was made out only an accident. Johnny's whole frame would shake with emotion when telling this story. The listener could scarcely decide whether it was laughter or tears, but most probably the latter.


Mr. Fulton was a tailor by trade, and for many years made nearly all the coats worn in the neighborhood, for there was no ready-made clothing to be purchased for many years after. He was of a kind disposition and very loquacious. The young boys were often entertained by his stories of his early history and adventures. He died in 1874, aged ninety-seven, and was buried at Mount Zion. A large number of his descendants live in the township.


About the same time that Mr. Fulton came, John Westover moved from Huntingdon county and settled in the southeast corner of the township, on what is now known as the Myers farm, near East Ridge. He had a family of nine children. Others of the family name afterwards came, some in adjoining part of Cambria county. There are a number of the name still in that neighborhood. One of John's sons, Oliver J., born in Huntingdon, is now living within one-half mile of the old place. Oliver served during the rebellion in the 115th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, and was a while a prisoner in the South. The old war spirit revives in him still, whenever he hears anything like disloyalty or anything said against the " boys in blue."


John Rorabaugh came from Centre county about the same time, 1824. He had a large number of sons, several of whom moved to the West many years ago. It is said he saw the first raft taken out of Chest Creek. Died in 1850, aged seventy- four years. His son John bought part of the Mitchell land near Mount Zion ; married Mary, daughter of Hugh Riddle, and cleared out a fine farm. He was a good citizen, a consistent member of the M. E. church, and had the respect of all. He died suddenly in 1879, aged sixty-eight years. He had four sons and two daughters, both of whom are dead. One of his sons, Russell, who was married to Ellen Byers, lives on part of the homestead. All the rest live in the county.


Christopher, another son of John, sr., lived near the Mount Joy United Brethren Church, near the center of the township. He died some years ago. A son, G. W., lives on the farm. Another, Charles E., was a store-keeper for some years ; is now an insurance agent in Curwensville. John E. lives not far from J. M. Riddle, his father-in-law.


David Mitchell was one of the earliest settlers, and took up a large tract of land about a mile from New Washington. When the Methodist Protestant Church was organized in 1829, he was one of the foremost in the movement. He died in 1833, aged sixty-five, and was buried on part of his land, where Mount Zion M. P. Church was built a couple of years later. There is only one tombstone in that cemetery of an earlier date, that of Rev. George Thomas, who was buried there in 1830. He was the first minister in the then young church in this county.


In the oldest tax list to be found of Burnside township, 1837, John Mitchell, son of David, is assessed with four hundred and fifty acres of land. He married a daughter of Rev. James McGee, and raised a large family. He moved to Kansas many years ago, but most of his children remain here and are married. David lives in Greenwood township on the old " Elder farm " along the river, Thos. M. not far from Burnside ; both of them own a couple of farms and have large families. One daughter, Mary Ellen, is married to E.H. Wite, and lives in Burnside borough on a farm. Another daughter is married to Fillmore Riddle, and lives in New Washington. Joseph, another son of David, sr., lived on the ridge road about two miles south. He died about two or three years ago, aged seventy-five. His son John C, lives on the same farm; has filled the office of justice of the peace for many years. Another son of Joseph, David, lives a couple of miles further south on the road to East Ridge.


Joseph Hutton came in 1826, from Centre county, and settled adjoining Hugh Riddle. He died in 1833, aged fifty-seven. His son Jesse was married to Ruth Weaver and lived many years on the farm. He has lived for some years in New Washington. His son Joseph occupies the homestead. Another son, William, is a farmer in the corner of the township, a mile eastward. A third son, Amos, was for some years a teacher, but for some time a preacher in the " Christian " Church, (or Disciples).


A couple of years before Hutton, Reeder King moved from Lycoming county and settled a mile below Cherry Tree, following the bed of the river. He had a large family of boys, all of them over six feet in height. Two of them, John and Charles R., are still living near Cherry Tree, and a number of grandchildren. Reeder King ran the first raft from there down the river, and built the first ark. Coal was carried in them at an early day, but there was too much risk of their sinking, and that method was soon abandoned.


King's brother-in-law, Edward McCreery, came in 1826, and settled near Pine Grove, adjoining Mr. King's. His sons were also tall, and good marksmen and hunters. The oldest, Joseph, is still living in Cherry Tree, long past his three-score years and ten, but still active. It is not many years since he quit piloting rafts down the river.


John King, a brother of Reeder's, came from Westmoreland county about a year after McCreary, and settled on the ridge between the river and Chest Creek. He had a number of daughters and two sons, William and Wilson, who both live near where they were raised on adjoining farms.


Jacob Neff came from Centre county in 1828, and settled near New Washington. His brothers, Christopher and Henry, came a couple of years later. They endured, with all the early settlers, many privations and hardships. In 1835. their wives walked back to Centre county, and dried apples and made apple-butter, and had them brought home in the winter ; there being no apples then raised in the new settlement.


They packed grain to mill at Tyrone on horseback, and sometimes while away, grain had to be ground in a coffee- mill. Jacob died in 1879, aged eighty-four. Three of his sons are living : Joseph L., in Burnside, and Henry, in New Washington; John moved to Huntingdon some years ago. One of his sons, James, is a preacher in the Erie Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.


Christopher Neff lived a mile south of New Washington ; has been many years dead ; some of his posterity remain in the county.


Henry Neff, sr., and wife, are still living in New Washington; had no children, but are taking care now of the family of an adopted daughter. They are the only old couple now living that came to the township at that early date.


William Mahaffey came from Lycoming in 1827, and purchased a tract of land on the river (the present site of Burnside borough), and put up a log house near where Mrs. Horace Patchin's residence now stands. The next year he removed with his family, six boys, three of whom, John, Thomas and Robert, still reside in the county. In 1833, he, with his second wife and daughters, returned to Lycoming, leaving the three sons above named on the land, farming and lumbering, for they had a saw- mill erected. John was married to Ellen Byers, daughter of John Byers, sr., and Thomas to Margaret, daughter of David Mitchell, sr. They lived together with their families, and brother Robert, unmarried, in the same house, a number of years, until they sold to Matthew Irvin. John bought land below Cherry Tree, where he still lives, quite active for one of his years. Thomas removed to New Washington. He was for many years justice of the peace ; has a large family. Robert bought land at the mouth of Chest Creek, where he still lives, the proprietor of the new railroad town, Mahaffey. He served one term as county commissioner, and his son James was sheriff, and at present is proprietor of the Hotel Windsor at Clearfield, the finest hotel in the county. The Mahaffeys are numerous in Burnside and Bell townships.


On the opposite side of the river from Mahaffey, a little below, Rev. Timothy Lee, a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church, took up three hundred acres of land, and raised a family. His oldest son, Joseph, was a circuit preacher in the same church, and died in the ministry during the rebellion, leaving a son, Asbury Lee, of Clearfield, and a daughter, John Fletcher Lee lived in Bell township ; was for many years justice of the peace, and died recently (1887) aged over seventy. He has one son, Thomas, in the county near Utahville. One of the daughters, Mrs. Gardner, is living on the homestead with her family.


Benjamin Yingling cleared a farm on Beaver Run about 1828, and put up a saw-mill ; was justice for many years. Two of his sons still remain on or near the old place. About the same time Samuel Lafferty improved what is now the McKee farm ; and James Somerville the Shepherd farm. But few of either families are in the county. Somewhere near the same time Jacob Boice, an old surveyor, took up a piece of land near East Ridge. He did considerable surveying for many years thereafter. His son Lewis is at present on the same place.


In 1829, Benjamin Baird came from near Lock Haven, with his wife and two children, and " squatted " in what is known as the Elk Lick tract, below Burnside, joining Bell township. There is a small marshy spot at the mouth of the run, that it is said elk formerly came to for its saltness, which gave it the name. It has been a great resort for deer in later years, and many have been shot there by the hunter lying in ambush, when they came at night for the salt. Mr. Baird cleared a few acres and stayed on it for years till he had quite a family. The land was heavily timbered with pine, but at that time pine timber was not valued very highly. Years after it could be bought standing at one-half cent per cubic foot. After Mr. Baird removed from it, John Irvin, of Curwensville, bought the land for five dollars per acre, A few years since his sons sold it for $250 per acre to a Williamsport lumber firm. Two of Mr. Baird's daughters live in Burnside : one the wife of J. S. Wetzel, and the other the wife of Samuel Brickell ; others of the family live in Bell township. Mother Baird is still living with her youngest son, Blake, and is very active for her age. She is the only one living of the original settlers along the river valley. About the same time Mr. Baird came, John Smith, originally from Ireland, bought a piece of the Bailey land, and cleared out a farm on which he lived until his death in 1861, at the age of seventy- three.


About the year 1840, the family were attending a meeting at Mount Zion, having three children, the youngest five years old. While at the meeting the house caught fire, and when they got back was a sheet of flame, and no children in sight. They were found in a cave built for vegetables, not far from the house, the oldest girl having discovered the fire in time to save the younger two. The family lived in the cave and slept in the barn until they built another log house, although it was in the early winter. Two of the sons still occupy the farm, and one daughter, Mrs. Newry (the heroine of the fire) with her family.


Another of the early settlers was Henry Young, a German, who cleared a farm within the limits of Burnside borough. He raised a large family, all daughters, but one son, Henry, and nearly all live in the township. Mr. Young bought a piece of land near the center of the township. Young's school- house, where election is held, was named for him. His son is still living about a mile from the old place.


The Breths, Henry, Adam, and Peter, came from Alsace, in Germany, and settled on what is known as Beaver Bottom, a little above Patchinville. They were members of the Evangelical Church (or Allbright's), and quarterly meetings were held at Henry's house before there were any churches. Young men from a considerable distance attended these meetings, probably for amusement, for the members were very demonstrative, jumping, shouting, and clapping hands, usually keeping time to the singing with both feet, and often falling in a trance or swoon. That church has held camp-meetings in the same neighborhood until a few years ago. Henry had a number of children. Three of his sons have been justices ; Henry in Bell township, and Joseph and Adam in New Washington ; another son, Samuel, is living in Cherry Tree. Adam is now agent for the Sanderson coal lands in Burnside and Chest townships.


Between 1830 and 1833, Joseph McMurray came from Lycoming to a piece of land within the present limits of New Washington. The family were from the north of Ireland and belonged to the Methodist Church. Rev. Jacob S. Murray of the Methodist Church, who died recently, was a half brother. Joseph was for a long time class-leader, and was also a justice of peace. He died in 1878, aged seventy years. Of his children only James and Mrs. Nieman reside in the township. James was married to Matthew Irvin's widow, and owned the Burnside mills for many years, and kept store. He put up three or four of the finest buildings in Burnside ; afterwards purchased a fine farm near Indiana town. His family are all dead but one daughter, and he makes his home at New Washington.


Russell, a brother of Joseph McMurray, lived a while on a farm ; removed to New Washington and had a store there many years. He was an earnest Methodist ; died in 1886, aged eighty-two. He has only two children living, Mrs. Garrettson, and Joseph R. McMurray, who does the most extensive business merchandising in the upper end of the county.


John Holmes, a brother-in-law of George Atchison, came from Ireland about 1833, and bought a hundred acres of the McKeehan land, in the bend of the river, opposite Burnside. His wife was dead and two of his daughters kept house for him. He was a very genial, pleasant man, a fair sample of an old country Methodist. He died in 1839, aged fifty-five years. One daughter married Thomas Eastgate, who had a saw-mil on Rock Run ; afterward moved to Illinois. He built the first hewed log school-house on Atchison's land, just above the upper Burnside bridge, nearly fifty years ago. It was seated with high plank benches, the feet of the smaller scholars not reaching the floor; and the desks were fastened around the walls. Many of the early scholars of this school are still in the neighborhood. Among the earliest teachers was John Donaby Kime, an Englishman, who had been a surveyor, and was a good flute player—quite an attraction at that time. He lived on Bennett Hill. George Bennett, from whom it was named, was a brother-in-law of his. One of Mr. Holmes's daughters, Mary, was married to Thomas A. McGee, of McGee's Mills, and has a large family ; one son, William, lives in Burnside.


Another family that was influenced to come to this county by Mr. Atchison, was the Smiths, who came from County Leitrim, Ireland, in 1829. This was long before the days of steamships, and they were seven weeks and three days on board a sailing vessel on the voyage. John Smith came on here the same year with his family, but David and Andrew, who were unmarried, and their sister, and two nephews, William and James Dowler, lived five years in the city of New York, and came to Burnside in 1835. They had heard of their cousin, George Atchison, owning over four hundred acres of land, and supposed he was rich, as in Ireland he would be called an estated gentleman. They were undeceived when they found him living in a log cabin, and poor as all the early settlers were. They bought a homestead right on the river just below the mouth of Cush Creek, and a few years after purchased the land, two hundred and fifty acres. David was a shoemaker by trade, and made the first boots ever worn in Burnside. Before that time the lumberman wore shoes with leggins tied on them to keep out the snow. He must have been in good standing in Ireland, for he was admitted to the Masonic fraternity there and attained the highest degrees of the order. He died in 1871, aged eighty-five. Andrew died in 1869, aged seventy-nine. Of the nephews, William, died in 1836, aged over twelve years, and was buried at Mount Zion. James is at present on the old homestead ; has a family of eight children living.


Another of the Smith brothers, William, came some years after the others from Schuylkill county with his family. He died in 1858, aged seventy-nine. Of his sons, only one, Robert, lives in the township, at the mouth of Cush Creek. David F. bought the Atchison property in Burnside, and for many years did an extensive lumbering business. He is now living in Cherry Tree.


John Patchin came in 1835, from near Lake George, New York. He was accustomed to lumbering, and came to Clearfield first as an agent for a company. His keen perception of the value of timber lands prompted him to buy several thousand acres. The price then averaged about five dollars per acre. Up to this time running timber down the river was done only by the settlers, who would get out a raft and haul it in the winter to the stream, and each run his own raft to market in the spring, and sell it for what he could get, usually five or six cents a cubic foot. At first there was no rope used in landing, but a slim sapling trimmed with the knots projecting, called a halyard, was fastened to the lashpole of the raft with a withe, and was thrown on the shore and trampled on by the raft hands. When drawn to the water's edge it was carried forward and repeated again and again until the raft was stopped. Another way of landing was a " grouser," a stick of green wood, as much as a man could raise on end, dropped down between the ends of two stakes left separate for the purpose, until it reached the bottom. This scraping on the bottom of the river was a great help in checking the headway.


Mr. Patchin soon improved on these primitive methods of lumbering ; was the first to haul large spars for ship masts to the river, which he did by means of a rope and pully blocks in the difficult places. For many years he did all the spar hauling of the vicinity. The river in places had very short turns, so that raftmen often broke their oars against the bank, especially at Cush Creek and Turtle Bend. Mr. Patchin had a ditch cut across these narrow points, and it was not long till the river took the new channel, a great benefit to the lumbermen.


In 1840 he put up a log shanty, one story high, of large logs, at Patchinville, which served some years for a store and a dwelling. He then erected a frame house and brought his family. The older sons had been with him lumbering some years before. He was a very energetic man, had great control of men, and was very active up to the close of life. He died in 1863, aged seventy-four, and was buried on his land near Patchinville.


Horace, his oldest son, came to Clearfield in 1838, aged twenty years, and was engaged with his father a length of time, getting out lumber and floating from the Chesapeake to the Delaware. He lumbered about eight years at Deer Creek, and while there married Miss Weaver, of Centre county. In 1853 he removed to Patchinville, where he lived until 1870. He bought the Irvin property at Burnside and moved there, where the family still live. He made extensive improvements in clearing and building until he made it the most desirable residence on the Upper Susquehanna. He died in 1885, leaving four daughters, but no son.


Aaron came to the county in 1847, and staid with his father, assisting in the business until his father's death. He inherited most of his father's lands. He married Miss Barrett, of Indiana county, in 1862, and resides in and owns most of Patchinville, and carries on farming, lumbering, and merchandizing.


Jackson came in 1844, at the age of fourteen years, and clerked in the store for his father. Afterward he and Aaron were taken in as partners. After their father's death, they carried on the business until 1871, when he (Jackson) removed to Burnside. He carries on storekeeping and farming.


George Patchin, the youngest, lives between Patchinville and Cherry Tree, and follows lumbering and farming.


Mr. Patchin, sr., had two daughters. The oldest, Mary, married Mr. Walters, and lived until recently in Patchinville. Emily married the Rev. Justus A. Melick, of the Methodist Episcopal Church. She died in 1860.


George Darr came to the township about 1835, and lived near Langdon's, below Cherry Tree. In early life he wagoned goods from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, in the old six-horse covered wagons then in use. After coming to this township he was for many years miller at the Burnside mill. One son, Henry, lives on a farm in Burnside borough, and one daughter, the wife of John Kime.


Of the signers to the petition for the erection of Burnside township, in 1834, beside those already referred to, George W. King was a son of Reeder King, and lived near his father.


John McCullough came from Westmoreland, and took up a piece of land, two hundred and fifty acres, partly in Indiana county, about a mile from Patchinville, and raised a large family. A grandson of the same name now occupies it.


A. W. Coffey was from Huntingdon, lived with his wife, without any family, near where John E. Rorabaugh now lives, and practiced medicine through the township ; was what was called an herb doctor. One of his specifics was pulverized charcoal. He was a man of considerable education, and was somewhat of a poet. He left a large manuscript poem, written in a full, round hand, that was never published.


David Fulton, jr., was a son of David Fulton. Some of his descendants live along Chest Creek.


Hugh Gallaher was a son of Squire Gallaher. He married late in life, and lived in Chest township, where some of his family remain.


Most of the other signers belonged to Chest township. Daniel Braughler probably lived in Burnside. There was a town called by the name of Braughlersburg, and nearly forty lots purchased by parties whose names are on the old assessment list of Burnside township for 1837, the oldest that can now be found. It was located a little below Cherry Tree, on the river, but there is no such town at present.


On the old assessment list referred to, of fifty years ago, there are a few names of others than those already mentioned, who ought to receive a passing notice. Adam Allison had two hundred acres. His son Tate now lives in Patchinville. John Brickly lived about two miles northeast of Burnside ; was a local preacher in the Evangelical Church. Several of his family are living in the township.


Joseph Brothers was taxed with four hundred acres. The tax then levied was a dollar and a half to two dollars per acre, and on horses averaged thirty dollars each. There was nearly as many yoke of oxen as of horses at that time. They were assessed at about forty dollars. Some of Brothers's descendants are in the southeast corner of the township.


William Moore had two hundred and forty acres of land on the river in the upper end. He was an Irishman of powerful build ; was drowned at Muncey dam in middle age. Some of his family remain.


Joseph Croasman lived near where Elk Lick school-house stands. One of his sons, though a very wild young man, afterward got to be a preacher, and is on the Pacific coast.


James Coleman located below Cherry Tree. His son Henry still resides in the township.


Henry Eisenhower was a German ; had one hundred acres, part of the Bailey land. A grandson still occupies it.


Frederick Shepherd had one hundred acres near the head of Beaver Run. Several of his sons are still in the township.


New Washington was incorporated as a borough in 1859, and is one and a half miles from Newburgh, on Chest Creek, where at present a second railroad is being made, connecting with the Pennsylvania Central. It has two general stores, an Odd Fellows' hall (a three story building), and a Methodist Episcopal Church. In the cemetery is buried the oldest couple can be found in the State. John Ludwig Snyder was born in Ludwig, Germany, March, 1746, and died in November, 1860, having reached the remarkable age of over one hundred and fourteen years. He was one of the earliest settlers near New Washington (in Bell township), having come soon after Mr. Gallaher. His wife, Anna Maria, was born in Philadelphia, May, 1752, and died August, 1857, aged over one hundred and five years. A number of their descendants are living in Bell and Burnside township.


The old hewed log church (Methodist Episcopal) which was near the ground occupied by the present one, was built about 1837. It was seated with plank benches, and served until i860, when the present one was built.


The old Mount Zion Church, also of hewed logs, was built in 1835 by the members of the newly-formed Methodist Protestant Church. It was used until about two years ago, when the society put up a neat frame church. The Evangelical Association, familiarly called " Allbrights," has a nice church near the election house, called Harmony, and another below Cherry Tree. This denomination held yearly camp meetings above Patchinville until a few years ago.


The United Brethren have a church a mile from Harmony, called Mount Joy ; one built a couple of years since at Patchinville, and later still one at Shepherd's. At East Ridge a frame Union Church was built over forty years ago by the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, and Brethren or Allbrights. It is still in use by the Brethren and Methodists, the other societies having gone down.


Burnside Borough was incorporated in 1874. It is finely located on a gently sloping ground, in a large bend of the river, and has finer buildings than is usual in country towns. There are five general stores, beside groceries, drug stores, millinery, etc., a Union Church built in 1868, and a Methodist Episcopal in 1871, and the finest school-house in the south end of the county. An Odd Fellows' Lodge was instituted here in 1869, which is in a flourishing condition.


Within two or three miles of Burnside on the northwest, in the valley of Cush Creek, there are veins of fine coal, six to eight feet thick, that have been worked for years for home consumption.


The first Sunday-school within the limits of Burnside was in the old log school-house on the Atchison farm, about the year 1845. It was a union school, but Mr. Atchison procured the books for it, and got Wesleyan Methodist, he at that time being a member of that church, and had preaching there.


The early history of Burnside township would not be complete without a notice of " muster day " or militia training, which was on the first Monday of May. Under the militia laws of the Commonwealth, all the able-bodied men under forty-five years old, were required to meet and drill one day in the year, or be subject to a militia fine of one dollar. The ununiformed militia of the three townships of Burnside, Chest and Bell, met at New Washington, and with many of them came their wives and families to enjoy the sight and have a " good time." Some parties were always on the ground with gingerbread, cider, beer, and often something stronger, to suit the tastes of the crowd. Occasionally some one would indulge too freely and get up a disturbance. If one of the militia, he would be put " under guard " as a punishment, but it was rather courted than shunned, especially by the men taken from the ranks for guards, as a relief from the tiresome drill.


Cyrus Thurstin, of Jordan township, was commissioned captain, he having seen some service in the War of 1812 and '14, near Lake Erie. He was a very small man. When marching his sword trailed on the ground. He had the Yankee drawl in his speech ; could scarcely sound the letter r. He was full of conceit in his military abilities. One of his well-known expressions was, " Waa's my glory, by thundaw, boys "; but he needed it all, for a more unmanageable lot of men to train perhaps no officer ever undertook. He was assisted by Sergeants S. J. Hurd and James H. Weaver, both young men at that time and both still living. Sergeant Hurd called the roll, which was written on sheets of cap paper, and when the name called was not answered, the captain would command, "Prick him," which was done by Sergeant Weaver sticking a pin through the paper at the name of the delinquent.


Some of the men brought rifles and hunted game on the way, but most of them had only sticks for guns, and it was often laughable to see the awkwardness of some of them in obeying commands. When they would get badly mixed and tangled up the command would be given, " As you were," but the difficulty was they did not know how ''they were," and the patience of Captain Thurstin was often sorely tried, and his usual epithet "By thundaw," was often heard.


In 1846 a large number of the boys, perhaps one hundred or more, rebelled against the authority of Captain Thurstin, and trained under command of Captain John McQuilkin, who had served in a volunteer company. Of course, Captain Thurstin was enraged at the insubordination, and threatened to enforce the law against the offenders, but they evaded the results by organizing a volunteer company by name of " New Washington Riflemen," with John McQuilkin, captain ; Thomas Mahaffey, first lieutenant ; F. G. Miller, second lieutenant, and James Dowler, orderly sergeant. It was organized by Major Burkett, of Centre county, who was brigade inspector. This was the year the war with Mexico commenced, and the Major took a vote of the company on volunteering their services to go to Mexico. All voted in favor but three, but their services were not required.


About a year after Captain McQuilkin resigned, and James Dowler was elected captain, who retained the command during the seven years' service. The State furnished the arms (the old flint lock) and tents, and the company was attached to the 5th Brigade Pennsylvania Volunteers, composed of the counties of Clearfield, Centre, Clinton, Union and Mifflin.


In 1845 an election was held for brigade officers by the several companies composing it. The vote was a close one, and it was the vote of the " New Washington Riflemen " that elected John Patton brigadier general, William Bell, major, and Clark Patchin brigade inspector, with the rank of major.


That year a regimental encampment was held on the farm of Major Wise near Ansonville, and General Patton then made his first and only appearance on the tented field, in uniform. Major Bell was also present, and Major Lewis Barrett, a brother of Judge Barrett, of Clearfield. The boys then had a jolly time playing soldier, but many of them since were soldiers in earnest in the late rebellion.






Communities in Burnside Township


Cherry Tree
Cush Creek Junction
Dowler Junction


Boroughs in Burnside Township


New Washington

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