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Clearfield County PAGenWeb



Decatur Township History




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. 511-523. 







THIS township was formed in 1828, by dividing Bradford township. Its boundaries at that time being, on the north, Bradford township (but now Boggs and Morris townships), on the east the Moshannon Creek, which divides it from Centre county; on the south Huntingdon county (now Cambria county, and Woodward township), and on the west Muddy Run and Clearfield Creek (now Woodward township).


The township was covered with a magnificent pine and hemlock forest, and early attracted the attention of settlers. The lands of the township were owned, or at least the greater portion of them, by Hardman Philips, an Englishman, who settled in, and gave his name to Philipsburg, a town in Centre county, and just across the township line on the east, and in which county he also owned thousands of acres.


Mr. Philips offered inducements to his own countrymen, and to the Protestant Irish, to settle on his lands, and as early as 1797, a settlement was made at a place now called Stumptown, a mile northeast of Osceola Mills. This settlement was known at that time as the " Goss " settlement, and derived its name from Abram Goss, who settled there at the time mentioned, and proceeded to clear out a farm from the surrounding forest.


This settlement was then supposed to be in Centre county, from the fact that Clearfield county not being then organized, the settlers were under the government, or courts of the former named county, but in reality, the township never formed a part of that county. Mr. Goss raised a family of thirteen children, twelve of whom lived to years of maturity, and who assisted in settling the township. His son, Abram, now lives in Osceola Mills, and is surrounded by a numerous line of descendants.


Valentine Flegal was another settler in the township, about 1800. His farm occupied the site of what is now the Steiner estate. Mr. Flegal was an M. E. local preacher, and held services at " Goss's " as early as 1815. He was regularly ordained as an M. E. minister in 1838, and did good service for his Master, for a number of years thereafter. His descendants are found throughout the county, one of them living in Philipsburg, within a stone's throw of the old homestead. One of his sons-in-law, named Winters, settled on the land now forming the northern portion of Osceola Mills, and his house stood about where the junction of North Lingle and Treziyulny streets intersect.


A man by the name of Crane bought a large tract of land from Mr. Philips, adjoining the settlements of Mr. Goss and Mr. Flegal. A short time afterwards he imported a number of negroes, and sold them land at a nominal price, to induce them to settle and clear farms. The climate, however, did not suit these dusky sons of toil, and disease made sad ravages among their number. An old graveyard east of the Goss cemetery, now overgrown with brambles and briars, received their remains, and their history has passed from the recollections of our citizens. Samuel Green was the leader of these men.


Another old settler was Elijah Reece, an Englishman, who settled on lands on which is now situated the " Victor No. 3 " colliery. He came there in 1816 when sixteen years old, married early, and with his young wife went bravely to work, and soon made for themselves a pleasant home. Three sons and one daughter are still living in the neighborhood, and his other child, a daughter, is the wife of Rev. Harvey Shaw, missionary of the Presbyterian Church in Mexico. Mrs. Reece died in 1873, and her husband, November 12, 1883.


John Reams settled at the head of Coal Run in 1834. He raised a family of three sons and three daughters, all of whom are still living. One of his daughters was married to Andrew Gardner, and lives in Tyrone, another one to Andrew Bachman, and the third one to William A. Bloom. His best known son is William A., who resides on the old homestead. This son is a noted hunter and marksman, and though game has become very scarce, owing to the advance of civilization, yet William manages to keep up his reputation as a mighty hunter, and numerous trophies of his skill find their way to market every winter.


Another old poineer of this township was Henry Kephart, who settled on a piece of land two and a half miles north of Osceola Mills, before 1803. (The exact time of his settlement has been lost). The Columbia mine is situated on the old homestead site. Mr. Kephart was the father of twelve children, who in turn settled in and around their parents. They were named David, Henry, Peggy (who married William Harner), Andrew, Ellen (who married Daniel Kephart), Mary (who married Andrew Nearhuf), George, Barbara (who married Simon Crane), Charlotte (who married John Crane), William, Nancy (who married Richard Hughes), and Stephen.


Andrew Kephart died September 13, 1882, from a stroke of apoplexy, in the seventy-second year of his age. Stephen died February 15, 1887, from cancer, in the sixty-first year of his age. The rest are still living. The old pioneer, Henry, was lost in 1859, near Sandy Ridge, and was never found. He was returning from Tyrone and had come to the tavern of John Raudenbaugh by stage, intending to walk from there to his home. He started, but not arriving in due time his neighbors started out to hunt him, but without success, and from that day to this he has never been heard from.


Henry Kephart's oldest son, David, married a daughter of Daniel Hoffman, one of the pioneer settlers of Osceola Mills, and settled in that town near what is now called " Frenchtown." David's oldest son, Henry, is a well known citizen of that burg, and his son David resides within half a mile of the town, and David has a son whom he calls Harry. Five generations all told.


Jonathan Kephart, a distant relative of old Henry Kephart, was born in Reading, Berks county, and moved to this township in 1830, but not being satisfied he moved to Venango county. He had not been in the latter named county very long before he longed for the fresh green woods of old Clearfield, and returned to his first love. He drove all the way from. Venango county to a point in this township, six miles northwest of Osceola Mills, in a one horse wagon, camping out nights. On arriving at the place named he was satisfied with the prospect, and after sleeping one night more in his wagon, proceeded to erect himself a house and clear a farm.


Mr. Kephart was married twice, and had seven children by each wife—fourteen in all. Nine of these children are still living, viz.: Adam, Abraham, Nathan (sons of the first wife), James and Wilson, and Jane Ann, who married Louis Fulton ; Deliah, who married Harmon Klinger ; Martha and Henrietta, who occupy the old homestead.


Adam Kephart and Nathan Kephart have settled near Osceola Mills, and are well known. They each have fine farms, which they have won from the wilds of nature.


John Crowell was another old settler. His farm is now absorbed by the Logan and Logan Ridge collieries. An old grave-yard is situated on the farm, wherein the old citizens buried their dead. It has not been used for some time. In fact small trees are growing on the graves, some of which will measure eight inches through.


Another grave-yard was opened on the Goss farm, and this "God's Acre," is still being used, it being the only cemetery, with the exception of the Roman Catholic, where the citizens of Osceola Mills can bury their dead, unless they take them to Philipsburg or Brisbin.


There were other old settlers in this township, but as Woodward township was taken from Decatur some years later, and the settlements were made in what is now that township, their history will appear under the head of " Woodward."


The trials of these old settlers can never be all told. They were poor, but rigidly honest. It was the custom of those who had more of this world's goods than others, to ride around and see wherein they could assist their poorer neighbors.


John Goss, a brother of Abraham, and a son of old Abraham, who made the first settlement, was noted for his charity. Every spring he would mount his horse and go around, find out where a load of hay or a load of straw was needed for cattle, or a bushel of potatoes or a sack of meal was needed for man, and the articles would be forthcoming in a very short time thereafter.


The educational and religious privileges of these people were limited. Mention has been already made of the services held by Rev. Valentine Flegal. The second son of old Henry Kephart (Henry, jr.), was ordained a minister in the United Brethren Church, and acted as missionary for that denomination for a number of years, extending his labors, not only throughout this township, but over the mountain to the settlers in the Bald Eagle Valley, and wherever a settlement was made. His children are all ministers to-day, some in the eastern counties of this State, while one lives in Ohio, and is a bishop of that church.


About the first school-house in the township was built near the present residence of Adam Kephart; and Abram Goss, jr. (the one who now lives in Osceola Mills), was the teacher. Many a story is told by the old gray-haired men around, of old " Daddy Goss's " rule, and many a rod has he worn out on the backs of these story-tellers, according to their tell ; and richly they deserved the thrashings, if one-half their stories are true. Another school-house was early built on the Crane farm, and these two comprised all the educational facilities these pioneers had for a long time, and they were enough, for up to 1830, the township had only a population of three hundred and nineteen, and only fifty-eight taxables. The Crane and Goss farm-houses were about the only houses in the southeast part of the township as late as the year 1860.


Chester Hill Borough.


This is the name of a small town taken from this township, and is regularly incorporated. It is immediately opposite Philipsburg, and forms a suburb of the latter named place, though being in Clearfield county, it cannot be annexed to Philipsburg, which is in Centre county. Chester Hill owes its existence to the enterprise of Jacob F. Steiner, a prominent lumberman. Mr. Steiner was born in Montgomery county August 25, 1828; received his education at the Trappe Montgomery county Academy, and, at the age of eighteen, he moved to Water Street, Huntingdon county, where he remained until he was married, February 1, 1849, to Miss Elizabeth Harnish. A few months subsequently he came to Clearfield county, and here began to carve out his career, which ultimately resulted in his prominence as one of her wide-awake citizens. He first purchased, of Keller, Harnish ∧ Huyett, a tract of ninety-five acres, and during the same year another of four hundred and thirty-three acres of timber from the Hardman Philips estate. The original purchase was the old Valentine Flegal property. The first year he built a small house and barn, and in 1850 brought out his wife and began housekeeping.


At the time he made his original purchase, there was an old saw-mill on the property — one of the old-fashioned kind — which he remodeled and operated. The lumber business was his principal vocation from the time he first entered the county, and he continued it to the time of his death, which took place about two years ago. The population of Chester Hill is about two hundred and fifty.


Osceola Mills.


This is the name of another borough which was taken from Decatur township. It is pleasantly located on the banks of the Moshannon Creek, four miles south of Philipsburg, and six miles east of Houtzdale. The ground on which this town is built, rises from the creek all ways, so that it can be said that " she is set upon a hill." The town faces towards the south, and is at the foot of the heavy grade, on the Tyrone and Clearfield Railway, with which this road has to overcome the summit of the mountain, six miles distant, and six hundred feet above. The Moshannon Branch Railroad joins the Tyrone and Clearfield Railway at this place, and all the freight, coal, lumber, etc., shipped to Tyrone, are made up and dispatched from her suburbs.


The first settlement in the town was made by Mr. Winters, aforementioned. The second was made by Daniel Hoffman, who cleared a piece of land near the junction of Pruner and Coal streets, where he built a water-power saw-mill. This mill stood about where the tannery is now located. Mr. Hoffman ran the mill until 1844, when Thomas Mays, the father of William Mays, bought the mill, and moved his family to the place. At this time about twenty-five acres was all the cleared land there was in the town. Mr. Mays lumbered and farmed, clearing about fifty more acres, for ten years, when he removed to Tyrone Forges ; but, like all pioneers, thought there were too many people living over there, and in 1857, he moved back again, and stayed here. The lumber this old mill made was hauled over the mountain, and sold in Water Street, etc., for $10 per thousand ; good pine lumber too. The return load for these wagoners would be the necessaries of life : flour, tea, coffee, sugar, etc., purchased in these towns, from the proceeds of the lumber. What grain was raised on farms around here, was carried to the Bald Eagle Furnace Grist Mill, Ayres Grist Mill, two miles the other side of Philipsburg, on the " Pike," and to grist-mills, at Alexandria and Spruce Creek. The lumber that could not be sold near home, was made into rafts, run down the Moshannon Creek to the Susquehanna River, and by that stream to Harrisburg, Marietta and Columbia, where it was sold. The railroad at that time was only finished to Duncannon, and our raftsmen would ride by rail to that place, then take boat on the canal to Water Street, and walk the balance of the distance, bringing with them news of the outer world, and a bit of ribbon or other finery for their wives, sisters or sweethearts.


Mention has been already made of the descendants of Daniel Hoffman. Mr. Mays had two sons, and four daughters. His widow is still living in Tyrone, ninety-six years of age. William Mays is the best known of the family, and resides on Blanchard street. Being a carpenter and builder, his handiwork is seen all around.


Osceola Mills was laid out in 1857, and was incorporated as a borough in 1864. It received an impetus about 1860-61, when it was known that the Tyrone and Clearfield Railway would assuredly be built. At this time Messrs. Lippencott, Drum ∧ Co., built the first "big" mill, and got everything ready to do a " big " business. After waiting a year they associated with them A. B. Long ∧ Sons. The railroad was finished to Powelton in 1862, and was opened for business. During that year and 1863, the road was extended to Osceola, but not opened, there being some dispute between the Tyrone and Clearfield Company, and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, who were to operate the road. The latter company could not see that there was any business for the new road ; and only after a great delay did they take hold of it, and push it along, the original company being at the end of their finances.


A few cars of lumber from this mill were shipped during 1863, through the kindness of the contractor of the road, David Edmiston. Mr. Edmiston had chartered a locomotive and a few cars from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in order to assist him in laying the rails, and he kindly dropped a fewcars from Powelton to Osceola, and the mill firm hauled the lumber over to the road by wagons, loaded these cars, and Mr. Edmiston with his locomotive hauled them to Tyrone, and they were sent on their way.


However Messrs. Lippencott, et. al. became discouraged at the long wait, with the prospect of its unlimited continuation, and sold their property to Lawshe, White ∧ Co., of Jersey Shore.


A post-office was opened here in 1861, and the first postmaster was Thomas F. Boalich. The mail was carried on the back of Aaron S. Boalich to and from Powelton for two years or more. Mr. Boalich remained postmaster until 1875, when John C. Henderson was appointed. Mr. Henderson sold out his business in 1877 to W. S. Wells, and the commission was transferred to the latter, who retained it until 1881, when H. P. R. Blandy was appointed. He in turn gave way in 1886 to Jacob Ritzman, the present incumbent.


There was not much of a town here in 1861. A shanty here and there dotted the hillside, while a more pretentious farm-house showed its gables above the tree tops ; but the people were progressive, they had come to stay and to build a town, and they did it. The first thing these old Osceolans thought of was education. There was an old " shook" shop, owned by a Mr. Warner, and located where the tannery office now stands. In this shop these people started a Sunday-school. There was no school-house or other public building nearer than Crane's. Joseph Mitchell, the father of Mrs. Aaron Boalich, was the superintendent of this Sunday-school, and Mr. Boalich secretary, librarian and treasurer. The books used were carried to and fro, and thus the children were taught.


A Methodist minister, Rev. Mr. Wilson, came here once in a while and preached in the old mill, and in the boarding-house. Thus things went on for two years, when the "big" mill had drawn quite a respectable community together. A Rev. Foster (Methodist Episcopal) and Rev. Nunemacher (Lutheran) had got in here in the mean time, and services were held in the boarding-house kept by Smith Baird, who came here in 1864. Like all other backwoods settlements, the people here were passionately fond of dancing, and no better place could be found than the aforesaid boarding-house, and Smith, being a genial kind of a person (and which he retains as landlord of the Mountain House), he would allow the young folks the use of his dining room until twelve o'clock on Saturday nights, when he would quash proceedings, announce that preaching would be held there, and prepare for Sunday. After breakfast on Sunday morning the boarders were expected to carry in planks for seats, and improvise a chapel, and one of the ministers mentioned would conduct divine service. Rev. W. A. Wright, Presbyterian minister, also visited the stray members of that congregation at intervals.


The T. and C. Railway was opened to Osceola Mills January 1, 1864, and from that date the town may be said to have its beginning as a business point. A trestle one-eighth of a mile long and eighteen feet high, was necessary to connect the mill with the railroad, and this trestle was to be built by the mill company. The station of the T. and C. Railway was in Centre county, while the mill was in Clearfield county.


The mill company fulfilled their part of the contract, that of building the trestle, and they looked to the railroad company to place the iron on this trestle, as promised ; but here the railroad company objected. They could not see that there was any business for them over this trestle, and they would not lay the rails until they were assured that the coal in the surrounding hills was of a marketable quality. This was the beginning of the Houtzdale Branch—in fact, when this great feeder of the Pennsylvania railroad system was first opened it was prophesied that only two trains per annum would be run over it—one in the spring to bring back the raftsmen, and another in the fall to bring in supplies.


The Houtzdale Branch was thus delayed for months. To hurry matters, the officers of the mill company met in Harrisburg, and ordered their superintendent to write to Thomas F. Boalich to get some one to dig a car of coal out of a mine that had been opened for many years on the bank of the creek, west of Trout Run, and opposite the mill, near the water's edge. This bed was opened by Thomas Mays, years before, and was bed " A." Mr. Boalich employed a miner named Lewis to get out the car load, have it hauled over by wagons to where the station is on the main branch, load it into a car and shipped to Altoona, that the company might test its quality. It was pronounced good, and the rail was laid. This coal was taken from a vein that there has never a car load gone from since, unless the Sacketts may have shipped some of it when they had the shaft in operation at Osceola in 1866—their shaft being on this vein —but certainly none since, and was pronounced good by the experts of the Pennsylvania company.


Thus, then, Osceola Mills got a start. The first hotel was built by David Edmiston, the contractor; afterwards sold to Milo Hoyt October 4, 1864, and called the Osceola House.


Thomas F. Boalich built the Exchange, on the corner of Pruner and Curtin streets, and a man named Lipton kept a hotel on South Lingle street, which he called the Lipton House. Sundry other hotels were built, and stores and business places multiplied. A bill-mill was built one-half mile west, and a shingle-mill was built close to the big mill, and a foundry and machine shop was built in 1873 by Jesse R. Crawford, just out of the town limits on the west. A race course and park were opened in 1872 on the northern side of the place, and altogether, another such a bustling, busy town could not be found on the northern slope of the mountain.


July, 1870, witnessed the first heavy loss by fire in the town. The big mill was burned Saturday night, the 16th, and with it went 4,000,000 feet of sawed lumber, the Moshannon Branch Railroad station, five dwelling houses, a lot of railroad cars, and the " trestle," so often mentioned before. Fortunately the railroad company had found out that there was enough freight passing over this branch road to keep the rails from rusting, and they had erected a road alongside the trestle and were about to lay the rail upon it and abandon the trestle, when it was burned, and therefore the traffic of the branch suffered no loss. The mill company soon rebuilt their mill, larger than before, the railroad company rebuilt their station, and the citizens their dwellings, and Osceola Mills resumed its wonted industry.


During the year 1871 a lodge of Odd Fellows and a lodge of Knights of Pythias were organized in the town. The following year a lodge of American Mechanics and a lodge of Masons were organized. Of these four societies only two, Osceola Lodge No. 747, L O. O. F., and Osceola Lodge No. 515, A. Y. M. remain. In February, 1872, Walker Bros, built a planing-mill between the town and the Centre county railroad station. This mill was burned in the summer of 1878, but rebuilt immediately. It was again burned early in 1887, but again rebuilt.


In October, 1873, Messrs. Wooster ∧ Lull built a tannery on Pruner street, foot of Coal, on the creek bank. This industry they sold shortly after to W. S. White ∧ Son, and they in turn, in the early '8o's, to J. B. Alley ∧ Co., the price paid the Whites being $26,000.


The first newspaper in the town was started by Brisbin Bros. January 1, 1873, and called the Osceola Reveille. This paper they published until January I, 1876, when O. E. McFadden leased the material and started to publish the Industrial World, a paper published in the interests of the Junior Sons. This paper lasted just nine months, the last four issues being sold out to a political party which held opposite views to its owner, and the owner put his foot upon its further appearance. The paper was called the Campaign World for these four issues. The material was then leased to J. B. McFadden, a brother of the former publisher, who published it as the Osceola Reveille, with J. W. Scott as editor, for five years, when Scott retired, and McFadden published and edited the Reveille until January 1, 1886. At this time R. A. Kinsloe took up the task, and is the publisher and editor at present. The paper has always been Democratic in politics, except when published by O. E. McFadden, and then it advocated the principles of the old American party.


The religious views of the people were well looked after from the beginning. Mention has been already made of the first religious services held in the borough limits, and it only remains to add the progress of each denomination since that time.


The Methodists seem to have been the first on the ground. In 1860 this whole region, including Philipsburg, Snow Shoe and Port Matilda, was under the charge of Rev. Thomas Switzer, as senior preacher, and Rev. George Leidy as junior preacher. (Mr. Leidy is now presiding elder of the Altoona district.) These reverend gentlemen rode circuit at this time and ministered to their people as best they could. In 1863 Rev. S. Creighton was in charge of the Philipsburg circuit, and he visited Osceola Mills and preached in the houses of his communicants. In 1864 the Rev. T. H. Switzer was pastor of the circuit and he preached at the house of Mr. Catherman, but it did not prove satisfactory, as few people attended the services. He then resorted to open air services during the summer months, and when fall came he occupied the old "shook" shop as before. The town, according to the M. E. records, had only seventy-five inhabitants at that time, and but few of them Methodists. At the request of the people living at Dunbar, now Boynton, the reverend gentleman moved his quarters, that winter, to Crane's school- house, where he preached all through 1865.


During 1865 the first school-house was built in town, and in 1866 the Rev. M. K. Foster being in charge, he changed the place of holding services to that building, and preached there during 1867 and 1868.


In 1869 Philipsburg became a "station," and Osceola was connected with the Port Matilda circuit, and Revs. L. N. Clarke and W. C. Robbins were the pastors. In 1870 Port Matilda circuit was divided, and " Osceola" circuit was formed. It included Osceola Mills, Powelton, Coal Run and Moshannon, Rev, J. F. Bell being pastor. The handsome church of this society was built during this year and dedicated November 6.


In 1871 two more appointments were added to this circuit, Houtzdale and Centre, and Rev. Bell worked among these woods by himself until 1873, when the Rev. W. W. Reese was appointed pastor and the Rev. G. B. Ague his assistant. They remained until 1876, when Rev. J. Heckman was appointed. He remained two years. The Rev. J. A. Woodcock had charge 1878-9, followed by the Rev. W. S. Wilson, in 1880-1-2. Rev. A. W. Guyer was appointed in 1883, and under his charge the commodious parsonage was built. In 1884 Houtzdale was made a "station," and the Osceola circuit was left to be supplied with a pastor by the presiding elder. Rev. C. A. Biddle was sent, who worked hard, had the church repaired, and added many new members to his communion. During 1871 the Union Sunday-school was changed to the M. E. Sunday-school.


In 1885 Rev. W. F. D. Noble was appointed, under whose pastorate the church was relieved of nearly all outstanding debts. Rev. E. H. Witman is the present pastor, under whose charge the church is going forward and new members are being added day by day.


The Presbyterians had a missionary in this field as early as 1860-61, a Rev. Mr. Wright. On February 6, 1868, the present church was organized by a committee of the Presbytery of Huntingdon, John A. Lawshe and Peter A. Reed being the first ruling elders. This meeting was held in the basement of the church, the building not being completed until the following year. The pulpit was filled by the Rev. Mr. Sunderland and others until November, 1869, when the Rev. Mr. Sargeant ministered for one year, after which the Rev. Mr. Condit had charge until October, 1872. From this date until the spring of 1873, the pulpit was only occasionally supplied. In the spring of 1873 the congregation began the erection of a parsonage, which was completed and occupied May 5, 1874.


On the 11th day of May, 1873, the Rev. N. H. Miller, then a theological student in the seminary at Allegheny, preached two sermons, and again on the 25th of May the reverend gentleman officiated, and all through that summer Mr. Miller supplied the church. Having graduated in the spring, a regular call was given him by this congregation, which he accepted, and on the 9th of June, 1874, he was ordained and installed. He has remained the pastor to this time.


The first record obtained of the Roman Catholic Church holding services around this section was in 1865, when the Rev. Father Fern, the German priest, of Tyrone, celebrated mass in the depot building, on the Centre county side. The Father being in the diocese of Pittsburgh and the town being in the diocese of Erie, mass could not be celebrated in town without the consent of the bishop of Erie. The Rev. Father also celebrated mass in the houses of William Quigley and Jeremiah O'Brien for sometime thereafter. Afterwards a Father Tracy administered to his people (over the creek) until the Very Rev. K. O'Branagan was appointed in 1867 missionary from Clearfield town to Ansonville. This good priest rode over his charge during all winds and weathers until 1871, when he was removed to Sharon, where he remains. Father Tracy had established a mission at Osceola Mills, and built the little church which is still standing to the south of the present church. Father Branagan, on his appointment, added a piece to this old building, as it had already become too small, and built the parsonage. Rev. Michael Henry became priest here in 1871, but was removed in 1874, and the Rev. Martin Meagher became priest in charge. He was assisted by the Rev. Father Frank, who was stationed at the Cooper settlement. Father Meagher remained in charge some four years, officiating both here and at Houtzdale, and the adjacent country. Rev. Father Lynch succeeded Father Meagher, and he was succeeded in 1887 by Rev. Father Brady.


In 1881 the Catholic congregation commenced their present beautiful brick building, and on Sunday, the 15th day of October, 1882, the church was opened for divine service by the Right Rev. Tobias Mullen, bishop of Erie. The church is not yet free from debt, and therefore not consecrated.


There were ministers of other denominations who held occasional services here, but no other church was regularly organized. The Anglican communion had a few adherents scattered here and there, and its ministers would hold service at times in the Presbyterian Church, but there were never enough of its members here to make it a regular parish, and until their church at Houtzdale was opened the rectors of St. Paul's Church, at Philipsburg, kindly supplied all wants.


A banking house was instituted in the town in 1871 by Loyd, Caldwell, Lawshe ∧ Co., and afterwards the firm was changed to Loyd, Caldwell ∧ Co. This firm failed in 1873 and the institution went down. In September, 1875, the Citizens' Banking Company was formed, who successfully managed a bank until the 1st day of January, 1881, when the Houtzdale Bank was started, this latter banking company, comprising all, or nearly all, the members of the Citizens' Banking Company. The affairs of the latter company were wound up, and the bank in Osceola Mills is only a branch of the Houtzdale Bank. Its accounts are kept and its doors are open for the accommodation of the people residing in the place.


On May 20, 1875, the town was almost wholly destroyed by a terrible conflagration. The fire started from a woods fire, and first caught the Presbyterian Church, and in less than three hours' time, what had been a town in which lived about one thousand five hundred people, and which had prided itself that morning as being the town of towns, was among the places that had been. One and a half millions worth of property had gone up in smoke, and its inhabitants were scattered among the surrounding towns.


The people for a day or two were paralyzed, but they would not be kept down. The Methodist Church, being to one side of the ill fated " burg," was saved, and was speedily converted into a commissary. Provisions, money, clothing, lumber, etc., came pouring in from all quarters, and in a very short time numerous shanties again dotted the hill side, and Osceola Mills was again accorded a local habitation, and a name. So completely had the fire done its work that not a fence, shed, board walk, stump or stick of any kind was left in the burnt district.


The new Osceola Mills is more beautiful than the old town. Her streets are shaded by fine trees. Her residences are more modern, and her gardens are more beautiful. G. M. Brisbin, Dr. D. R. Good, W. A. Crist, W. J. Jackson, T. C. Heims, and George E. Jones, have each a splendid residence and magnificent grounds surrounding their property, while the gardens of Good and Brisbin will compare with any in their arrangement, their taste, and the many specimens of the floral and vegetable kingdom to be found therein. Another fine residence is that of Henry Liveright. The drug store of H. Campbell, the bank building, the store of T. C. Heims, the Presbyterian Church and parsonage, the Methodist and Roman Catholic Churches, the residences of C. C. Dickinson, A. S. R. Richards, R. J. Walker, Giles Walker, Samuel Stein, E. B. Hartman, William Mays. C. W. Heims, and Mathew McCully, will compare favorably with any in the county.


The foundry and machine shops which Jesse A. Crawford had built on the western skirt of the town, and which were burned with the rest, were rebuilt on the flat just out of the borough limits, on the southeast, and was then sold to ex-Sheriff Pie. These shops were doing a large business when they were again burnt on October 8, 1884, but rebuilt immediately. They are now much larger, and are doing an immense amount of work.


In 1878 Samuel B. Stein started a machine shop and foundry on the east, just over the line, in Centre county. He soon associated with him Dr. D. R. Good, G. M. Brisbin, and others, under the name of the Osceola Manufacturing Company. These works are run mostly on coal cutters, Mr. Stein and Mr. Smith being the owners of valuable patents for coal cutters. The proprietors attend to all kind of work given them, but their coal-cutting machinery is made their specialty.


The Walker brothers' planing-mill was also rebuilt after the fire, and today is in the hands of R. J. Walker, he having bought out his brother's interest.


Osceola Mills therefore has two foundries and machine shops, a planning mill, a tannery, a saw- mill, a shingle-mill, a chair manufactory, besides smaller industries. Some fifteen coal mines surround her, and she is situated at the junction of the most important branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, with prospects for a long and prosperous life. The place is connected with the outer world and surrounding towns by fourteen passenger trains daily, while millions of tons of coal and other freight pass her doors annually.


No town in the State enjoys the reputation for health inspiration more than does Osceola, and more especially so is this the case with children. While diphtheria has prevailed to an alarming extent at times in every community around us, only a few sporadic cases have appeared among us, and they of such a type as to be checked and confined to the immediate locality of their origin. The same, too, may be said of scarlet fever. Measles and whooping cough are the only diseases which have ever become epidemic here, and they never to an alarming extent.


In 1882 a handsome iron bridge was erected over the Moshannon Creek, between the borough and Centre county, by the commissioners of Clearfield and Centre counties.





Communities in Decatur Township


Coal Run Junction
Goss Run Junction
Morgan Run
New Castle
New Liberty
Pleasant Hill
Scotch Hollow



Boroughs in Decatur Township


Chester Hill
Osceola Mills



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