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Girard 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. 531-537. 







NO accurate data concerning the exact date of the erection of Girard township can be acquired. The records of the Quarter Sessions Court, in which this information should be found, were so imperfectly kept that no mention of the fact is there made. It appears, however, that at a term of the court held in the month of September, 1832, a return was made by Usebius Cinkade, for the deputy constable of the township; and, in all subsequent court proceedings the return of the constable for Girard township regularly appears. It is fair to assume, therefore, as a fact, that the erection was made in 1832, and prior to the month of September. Girard township, geographically, is situate on the north boundary of the county and occupies a tract extending from the West Branch to the Cameron county line. It is bounded east by Covington and west by Goshen townships. In length it extends about eleven and one-half miles (average), and is of an average width of about five and one-half miles. The surface north from the river is generally rough, hilly, and in some parts quite mountainous. The greatest altitude is reached in the western part at what is known as " the Knobs," where, according to the estimates of good authority, the hills reach a height of from twenty-two hundred and thirty to twenty-two hundred and eighty feet. The township is drained by the waters of Surveyor's Run, Bald Hill Run, Deer Creek, Buck Run, Sandy Creek, Mosquito Creek, and other streams of less magnitude.


This first settlement was made by Peter and Mordecai Livergood, brothers, who came from Chester county with their family and effects in 1818. Peter Livergood settled and began an improvement near the river, about a mile east from the mouth of Surveyor's Run, near where the old Indian path crossed the country. Mordecai Livergood located and commenced a farm near the mouth of Surveyor's Run. This run was so named from the fact that a party of surveyors, in locating lands in the north part of the county, made a camping place on the stream. Whether the name was applied by the surveying party themselves does not appear, but the stream has always been known as Surveyor's Run.


In his confession, made a short time before he was hung, James Munks, the murderer of Reuben Giles, stated that the shirt he had stolen from Giles was concealed in a hollow of a log not far distant from Peter Livergood's place. The article was afterward discovered and pulled out by a dog.


The next settlement was made in 1821. by John Irwin. He settled on the river, a few miles east from Peter Livergood's clearing. Irwin was a native of Ireland and came to this country with his parents. He continued to reside on the river for many years, and raised a family, but afterward moved to Wolf Run, east of Clearfield, where he died at an advanced age.


John Murray came from Huntingdon county, and made a settlement in the year 1821. He had a considerable family at the time, and suffered many hardships during the first few months of their residence here. The head of the family died in the winter of 1824, leaving a widow and a number of small children surviving.


About the year 1824 John Spackman and Thomas Leonard, with their families, left the older settlement up the river and located in Girard ; and about the same time William Irwin came to the vicinity. Each had lands and commenced making an improvement. Soon after came Peter Lamm, from Northumberland county. He was a millwright, and built a mill at the mouth of Deer Creek, near which he had located. This mill was subsequently changed by the addition of grinding-stones, and became a combination saw and grist-mill. No flour was made, however, but ground feed for cattle and a small quantity of corn meal.


Abraham Jury came from Dauphin county. He was a potter, and supplied the residents for miles around with earthenware made by him in a shop he had erected. He burned his ware in a small kiln near the shop.


Zacheus Mead came to this township about 1826, and made a farm. The Meads were in the county earlier than this, but had lived further up.


Up to this time the larger part of the families had located along the West Branch, the main stream, but of those who came later many went into the interior, not the extreme north part, for this has not been settled, even to the present day, but following along up the streams where there were desirable lands.


That locality known as " the Knobs," an exceedingly elevated position, was settled at an early day by families, many of whose names have become frequent in the county. Among those of the early settlers not before mentioned, were the names Krise, Shope, Smith, and others.


Settlement on the east and northeast did not commence as early as on the west, although there were a few there. The eastern part owes its greatest settlement to the residents of Covington township, and in fact its success is in a great measure due to the efforts of the French people, who came in about 1835, and the years following.


Among the early French settlers was Alphonso Leconte, who came into the township from Covington about 1838. Three years later Augustus Leconte, his brother, came. Augustus Leconte built a saw-mill on Deer Ceeek, about two miles from the river, in 1840, but did not move there till about 1841 or '42. In this year Augustus built a grist-mill near where his saw-mill stood. Although the feed-mill built by Peter Lamm was the first of its kind in the township, the Leconte mill was the first regular grist and flour mill.


Stephen Hugueny was one of the early settlers in the French locality. He is said to have come there as early as 1835. Francis Grossaint came about the same time, or soon after. Their lands lay in the vicinity of the Leconte's Mills settlement, as it was called


The chief pursuit of the residents of the township, especially up to about twenty- five years ago, was lumbering. At the time the first settlement was made by Peter and Mordecai Livergood the whole country embraced by the township was a dense forest, and as the whole county was more or less occupied by lumbermen, this locality formed no exception to the rule. To enumerate accurately the many saw-mills that have been erected from the time that Peter Lamm built the first one, would be an exceedingly difficult task, but a general mention may be made of some of them.


Francis Grossaint built a saw-mill in 1844. Francis Coudriet built one in 1846. All mills built up to this time, and a majority of those in years following were water-mills, by which is meant that water was used as a motive power. The first steam mill was erected on the lands of Phelps and Dodge, who were extensive lumbermen in the township and elsewhere. The second steam saw-mill was built by Irwin & Sons, on Bald Hill Run, some distance up that stream, about the year 1867 or '68. The third of this class was built on Deer Creek, on an extensive tract, and was known as the Burgett mill.


The Leconte mills, which were built as water-mills, have recently been made into steam-mills.


The early saw-mills of the township were built mainly for the purpose of supplying the local demand for building lumber, but as lumbering in after years became the chief occupation of the people of the township, as well as the speculators who came for temporary purposes, much manufactured lumber was sawed and rafted down the river. The amount of this class, however, was small when compared with the vast quantity sent down after log rafting and floating were resorted to.


There still stands in the north part of the township extensive tracts of timber, and the area of land as yet unused for agricultural purposes, from which the timber has but partially been taken, or not yet touched, is variously estimated at from thirty- five to forty square miles.


There were no regular religious services held in the township until about twenty-five or thirty years ago. There were, however, occasional meetings held as early as 1827, when Rev. William McDowell, of the Methodist society, preached at the house of the widow of John Murray. George Philip Geulich would sometimes hold services at various houses. The society of the Methodists gradually increased, but have never yet become sufficiently strong to erect a church edifice. Services are held in the Bald Eagle and Congress Hill school-houses at stated intervals. The French residents are principally of the Roman Catholic faith, and attend church at Frenchville, where a church is erected and a resident priest is located.


After an effort of many years, a Presbyterian church was built in the township in the central part of the settled lands. This building, a neat and tasty edifice, was erected through the perseverance of Mr. John McCorkle, in the year 1873.


The first school in the township was taught by Cornelia Kincade. The building was a log structure, erected mainly through the personal efforts of the residents of the township. It was built at the place afterward called Congress Hill, so named from the very large vote polled by Alexander Irvin at that place when he was a candidate for congressional honors. At the present time there are four school-houses in Girard, each being named for the locality in which it stands, except Congress Hill school, which was named as above stated. The Congress Hill school is situate in the south part of the township, a short distance from Leconte's Mills. Buck Run school, so named from the stream Buck Run, is in the northeast portion of the settled lands. Gillingham school, named in honor of Joseph E. Gillingham, an extensive lumberman of former days, is situate in the northwest of the township, in the vicinity of "the Knobs." Bald Hill school is located in the southwest part of the township, in the vicinity of the Bald Hills, so named from their barren and bald appearance.


The schools of this township are conducted and supported in the same manner as the other educational institutions of the county, by school tax in the township, and the annual appropriation of the State Legislature, based upon the number of taxable inhabitants in the several townships. Every three years a new apportion ment is made, and the revenues for school purposes increase or decrease with the taxable population.


The hamlet of Gillingham was so named in honor of Joseph Gillingham, a Philadelphian, who held a large tract of land in the township. The village, if such it may be called, comprises a cluster of several houses, a shop, and store. For the accommodation of residents in that locality, a post-office was established there several years ago, but with changes in postmastership, the locality of the office may change and become fixed at a residence some distance from Gillingham hamlet proper, but still the office has always been known by that name wherever situate.


The hamlet known as Leconte's Mills owes its origin to the efforts o Augustus and Alphonso Leconte. These families were residents of Frenchville, but seeing a good business opportunity in the eastern part of Girard township, near the confluence of Deer Creek and Buck Run, were induced to locate there. Alphonso preceded his brother by about three years, and induced him to come to that point and locate a mill and build a residence. After years of labor Augustus Leconte succeeded in having a post-office established at the place which was named Leconte's Mills post-office. Mr. Leconte was made postmaster, which position he held until 1872, when he was succeeded by Charles Mignot. In 1875 A. F. Mignot was appointed, and held for a time, when Alexander Murray was chosen. Under the present administration Dr. Gilliland holds the office.


While lumbering and agriculture have always been the chief occupation of the residents of Girard township, it is a known fact that there lies underneath the surface an extensive vein of coal. This is mined only for supplying local demand, but at an early day quantities of this product were sent down the river in arks. About the first to engage in this work in this locality was John Kyler, who bought a tract of land on Bald Hill Run, from which he shipped coal down the river for several years, but the commodity was not then sufficiently valuable to justify extensive mining operations.


From the geological report on Girard township may be gleaned some facts of interest, but reference to the geological chapter in this work will be necessary to inform the reader fully as to the general character and classes of underlying strata.


In the southern part of the township, south of " the Knobs," the Mahoning sandstone is found in all the high land. In the hills along the river the rocks seem to lie nearly flat, but a short distance from the river, going north, the measures rise rapidly toward the second anticlinal axis, the dip being at least one hundred feet to the mile.


On the road leading northwest from Deer Creek bridge are two old banks both apparently opened on the Kittanning coal. The first, on the Robert Green place, is said to contain a four foot vein of coal.


A large number of beds have been opened from time to time in the southern part of the township, but having been abandoned and the mouth closed, reliable data as to their quality is not obtainable.


In the southern and central part near the Murray lands are beds showing from two and one-half to three feet in thickness. This was variable between the Beds C and B of the Kittanning Lower coal.


From the river going north in the direction of the Knobs, the rocks rise rapidly, and with this rise in the surface is still found the Freeport group in the vicinity. The high lands between the headwaters of Deer and Sandy Creeks and the Knobs, are capped with Mahoning sandstone, but still further north from the Knobs appears the Clarion sandstone, and rocks of the Conglomerate series coming to the summit of the ridge, and making a great stretch of rocky and sandy ground known as the Barrens.


The beds of the township may be summarized as follows : Freeport Upper coal (E), thin and not well defined ; Freeport Lower (D), estimated at from four to five feet ; Kittanning Upper (C) coal, varying from three to four feet; Kittanning Middle (C), from two to three feet, and of fair quality ; Kittanning Lower (B), average about four feet, containing clay shale in localities ; intraconglomerate coal, about three feet. The coal shipped by John Kyler in arks, referred to heretofore, was what is known as the intra-conglomerate.





Communities in Girard Township


Bald Hill
Congress Hill
Frenchville Station
Gallows Hollow
Lecontes Mill

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