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Clearfield County PAGenWeb



Huston 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. 558-566. 







THIS township was organized in 1839, lying north of Clearfield and east of Du Bois in the northern tier of townships ; being bounded on the north by Elk county, the northern boundary runs along Boon's Mountain in part. Topographically speaking, it lies in the Bennett's Branch watershed, forming a beautiful and fertile valley, eight hundred feet lower than the towering mountains guarding on either side. Bennett's Branch (creek), a tributary of Sinnamahoning, flows through the entire length of the township from west to east. It is considered to be in the Third Coal Basin, and nearly one-half of the township is underlaid with coal.


Lumber.—Pine is mostly gone ; considerable hemlock yet remains ; also some white pine, with the usual variety of other hard wood common to the western end of the county.


Agriculture.—The valley is in an excellent state of cultivation, and about three- fourths of the township is tillable. The writer was unable to ascertain when the first settlement was made, but the best authority fixes the time in 1812. The original settlers, John S. Brockway located where Schofield's Hotel now stands, Jesse Wilson where Franklin Hewitt now lives, and G. R. Hoyt where L. Bird's house now stands. Some time after J. S. Brockway sold to Jesse Wilson, and moved further north near where Brockwayville (Jefferson county) now stands. Other persons then settled above and below Penfield. Among these was Ebenezer Hewitt, father of John and Thomas Hewitt. The old log house near Jacob Rosenkrans is, or was, the only relic of early buildings. It is now (February, 1887) being torn down and cut into firewood.


Reminiscences.—The population remained about the same for several years, as there were no special inducements to bring the people to this section. The inhabitants here, as well as elsewhere, suffered all the privations necessarily attending pioneer life. They depended upon the forest to supply the meat, and johnnycake was the legal tender everywhere. Making shingles was about the only means the people had to raise money. These were hauled to Clearfield and sold.


Religious Services.—Religious services began almost with the settlement (see Methodist Episcopal church). Neither were the educational interests neglected, for a school-house was built at an early date near where the iron bridge crosses Bennett's Branch (Penfield). The first blacksmith shop was built in 1842 by E. D. Patterson, still living and over eighty years old. There was no important business done until the arrival of Hiram Woodward in 1854, who bought the interest of Wilson & Hoyt and began lumbering. Some one had tried to " float " unpeeled logs a few years previous, but utterly failed. When Mr. Woodward informed them of the number he intended to " drive," to express it in a more modern term, the people were greatly astonished, declared it utterly impossible, and threats were made on all sides against the undertaking; but nothing daunted, Mr. Woodward went on. The logs were put in and the people were forced to believe the truth. From that time forth lumbering has been the principal business of Huston township.


The natural question, Why this opposition ? is best answered by stating that a number of the settlers at that time were " squatters," who had no ambition to rise above the " hand to mouth " mode of living. Some were so poor that they caught rats and mice to make "soap-fat." This last statement is vouched for by respectable citizens now living, as literally true.


Circumstantial evidence points toward John C. Lindermuth, Robert Roderick, and " Coben " Winslow as having urged and " talked into " these " squatters," and later some of the better class of citizens, to oppose the driving of logs, on the plea that it impoverished the county, and hence should be opposed to the " bitter end." The supposed agitators were interested in a few " flutter " or "up and down" saw-mills in Elk county. During the winter of 1854-5 Hiram Woodward had a contract with Messrs. Reading, Fisher & Co. to put in a large " drive " of logs, and run to market in the spring of 1855. The late John Du Bois, assisted by Hiram Woodward, had a contract to drive these logs down Bennett's Branch. The opposition to " logging " had now reached such a pitch that all manner of obstructions were put in the way of the "drivers." Messrs. Du Bois and Woodward followed the "drive" on a raft on which an " ark " or " shanty" was built. Besides the regular crew, there was a woman with three children on the raft. When the raft reached the " narrows," below Caledonia—a very swift, rough, and dangerous passage—the crew found a rope or a cable stretched across the stream, securely fastened on both shores of the stream. Just as the raft shot under the rope, Mr. Woodward managed to get over it by climbing over the oar-stem. Mr. Du Bois attempted to cut it with a broad-ax, but he slipped and fell, missing the rope, but he instantly regained his feet, just as the " shanty " reached the rope, struck again with the broad- ax, and this time succeeded in severing the rope, and passing through in safety, barring the stones which the infuriated crowd on both sides of the stream hurled at the heads of the crew, with terrible imprecations. The same spring a "jam" occurred at about the same place (narrows, below Caledonia). The same opposition " spiked " (i.e., driving spikes into logs) all the logs they could conveniently get at, which would result in destroying saws and endangering the lives of sawyers. Arrests and rearrests occurred almost continually. About the same time (in the spring of 1855) at the mouth of Sinnamahoning (on the Susquehanna River) Messrs. Du Bois and Woodward " run on to " a gang of river pirates, who had " rafted in" some of Reading, Fisher & Co.'s logs. Mr. Du Bois accosted them abruptly with " You d—n rascals ! What are you doing here ?" The ringleader struck at Mr. Du Bois with a heavy pike-pole, which (had it not been caught by Mr. Woodward) would have knocked Mr. Du Bois into the river, and the " stun " of the blow, and the danger in the water among the logs, would undoubtedly have proved fatal ; but as the prompt action of Mr. Woodward disarmed the ruffian, he turned on his heels and fled, pursued by his expected victims, whom he eluded, and made good his escape. Mr. Hiram Woodward was also waylaid at one time, but by a feint pretending to be well armed, his assailants became alarmed and he (Mr. Woodward) reached his home in safety. The bitter litigations were finally adjusted, resulting favorably to the " log men.


" Old " Uncle Billy" Long, the great hunter, lived many years in this township. P. P. Bliss, the great singer, was born in this township when it yet belonged to Elk county. L. Bird came in 1869, engaged in the real estate business and surveying, prospered, owning considerable real estate in Penfield and vicinity.


Township Annals—There had been no township record prior to 1863, and limited space precludes quotations from the same.


The total vote in the township in 1881 was 126, and in 1886, at the governor's election, 350.


Penfield is a beautiful little town, having a population at the present writing of about 750. The beginning of the village dates from the settlement of Huston township. There seems to be considerable difference of opinion as to why the place is called Penfield, and whether the name should be spelled with one or two n's. One opinion prevails that it was named in honor of William Penn (the founder of Pennsylvania). Gould R. Hoyt wrote many letters, some in a poetical measure, in his endeavors to secure the establishment of the post-office (this was prior to '54), and many incline to the belief that the ready use of the "pen" in the hands of Mr. Hoyt, and the fact — the place being in Clearfield county — " pen " and " field " were united in making " Penfield," at any rate the post-office department had, and does now spell it with one " n." From some cause or other the post-office was afterwards discontinued and not re-established until Mr. Hiram Woodward arrived, through whose influence it was restored in 1855, by the same name, using but one " n." The town has four general stores, one hardware store and tin shop, one blacksmith shop, one wagon and blacksmith shop, two millinery shops, two shoe shops, one furniture and undertaking establishment, one harness shop, two drug stores, one tailor shop, one confectionery and grocery, one billard room, clothing and furnishing combined with the post-office, one hotel, and one boarding-house, also the planing-mill (ten horse-power) and furniture and undertaking manufactory of C. L. Avery. The large tannery of Thomas E. Proctor, and Hoover, Hughs & Co.'s large saw-mill are also located, the former in, and the latter near the town. For particulars see " manufacturing interests "further on. Penfield's (and the township's as well) prosperity dates from 1871 to '74, the building of the A. V. Railroad, on the line of which the place is located, sixteen miles north of Clearfield and thirteen miles east of Du Bois.


Winterburn is next in importance as a town in the township, is situated on the A. V. Railroad three miles southwest of Penfield, and ten miles east of Du Bois ; it is surrounded on all sides by hills, which afford wild and romantic scenery. Prior to 1873 it was a vast wilderness, but in 1873 the railroad was built and with it the high trestle, which was named the "South Fork Trestle," after the small stream running through at this point. In the winter of 1873 Mr. George Craig named it Winterburn. Why the place is so called is not definitely known, some supposing on account of the first "clearing" being " burned " in the winter, others supposing the name to have been suggested by a place in Scotland.


About this time Craig & Blanchard, who had been in co- partnership, dissolved by mutual consent and divided the timber tract, the small stream (South Fork) forming the boundary.


In 1874 James Barton, foreman for Craig & Son, commenced clearing the land on the left bank of the stream, and getting it ready for building. The mill was built, and in operation by May, 1875.


Blanchard's mill, on the opposite bank, was begun in the fall of 1874, and commenced running the following July (1875). His planing-mill was not built until 1879. Mr. Craig saws from two and a half to three million feet of lumber annually, principally boards. He employs about twenty-eight men constantly. Blanchard's mill saws six millions annually, and in addition to boards, bills of every description are sawed. In the saw-mill, planing-mill, and lumber camp he employs over one hundred men. The houses are nearly all painted white, adding greatly to the appearance of the town. The recent deaths of both Mr. Craig, sr., and Mr. Blanchard did not affect the material prosperity of the town, as both estates continue to run the mills on the same liberal basis as the projectors and recent owners.


The school-house was built in 1876, and the first teacher was Alice E. Bird, of Penfield, but previous to this Mr. A. H. Rosenkrans had taught a select school.


A Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1878 by Rev. A. B. Hooven, and a Presbyterian Church in May, 1882, by Rev. J. V. Bell.


Roads and Railways.—The public roads in this township—especially in the valley—are in fair condition ; probably the most important is the one leading from Penfield to 'Clearfield, through the woods, over the mountain ; it is the only direct road to the county seat, hence its importance. The A. V. Railroad is the only railroad tapping the township, affording an eastern and western outlet.


Agriculture.—The farming of this township is restricted to Bennett's Branch Valley, but is in a prosperous condition ; orchards also abound.


Manufacturing.—Tannery. —In the fall of 1881 Messrs. McKinstry and Clearwater, started the present plant of Thomas E. Proctor's tannery, located in Penfield, near A. V. station, but sold to Mr. Proctor, the present owner, before it was in running order; he completed and stocked it in 1882. Union crop, oak tanned (sole) leather, completely finished is made here, and sent to the proprietor's warehouses in Boston, Mass. The capacity of the tannery is three hundred hides per day, between seven thousand and eight thousand cords of bark are consumed annually, which is supplied principally by Clearfield county.


Mr. Proctor owns about four thousand acres of land in Huston township; employs about sixty-five men, and contemplates increasing the capacity fifty per cent, during the summer of 1887. Mr. Proctor has also a large general store in connection with this plant, in which he sold over $30,000 worth of goods during 1886, fully fifty per cent, of which was sold to the general public. Mr. Proctor sells his own productions at Boston. He owns forty tenement houses (at Penfield), all lathed and plastered. Mr. Proctor also owns about twelve other tanneries in different parts of the country. The tannery at Penfield has one hundred and fifty-six tan-vats, thirty-six color-vats, twenty-six soak and lime-vats, twenty-four leach-vats, and two bark-mills. D. R. Squires is the superintendent ; L. Pfleger is foreman ; and W. J. Squires is manager of the store.


Saw-mills.—Hiram Woodward in 1854 built an old "flutter " mill, which he supplemented in 1870 with a steam saw-mill, but is not now running for want of logs. In the fall of 1882 Hoover, Hughs & Co. commenced their large mill on Wilson Run, one mile from Penfield, which they had in running order in April, 1883. They have a private or "log" railroad five miles in lengthy for the supply of logs and delivery of manufactured lumber, to A. V. Railroad The capacity of this plant is thirty thousand per day ; six to twenty thousand staves (for spike kegs) per day. They intend to increase the capacity of the stave-mill during the summer of 1887. A regular planing-mill is in connection. The lath-mill cuts four to five thousand per day.


This firm employs one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty men and boys, including crews in the woods. The mill runs the " year round;" it has one engine with four boilers, one hundred and twenty-five horse-power. They own upwards of three thousand acres of land in Huston township, covered with (some) pine, hemlock and hardwoods ; ship both to east and west. This firm owns four similar mills elsewhere, one of which is located at Brisbin, this county. W. D. Reidy, general manager; E. C. Humes, superintendent of the mills.


Mine Productions.—The Clearfield Coal Company, located at Tyler station, A. V. Railroad (Huston township), re-organized in 1881 ; vein three feet. This company put up thirty coke ovens in 1883 ; have shipped sixty to seventy tons per day ; employs about seventy men and boys. The Clearfield and Elk county line crosses the plant ; the company contemplates putting up sixty more coke ovens. They own seventeen hundred acres of land in the immediate vicinity of their plant.


This township has one newspaper. The Penfield Weekly Press, started December 4, 1886. Thomas Waddington, editor; A. A. Rosenkrans, associate editor.


Schools.—Educational matters, like elsewhere, moved rather slowly in the early years of the settlement of Huston township. In 1856 there were only three schools in the entire township. Teachers receiving from $12 to $15 per month of twenty-four days, and had to " board around." There seems to have been some " crookedness," as a member of the school-board, at about this time, burned the record and vouchers, to prevent investigation as to the disbursement of money received from the county treasurer, on unseated lands. But later on the management of schools passed into different hands, and began to prosper, as the large amount of unseated land kept the school fund in a healthy condition, and for many years Penfield boasted of a fine school building, and excellent grading of its scholars. According to the report of the superintendent of public instruction for 1886, Huston township had ten schools, seven male and five female teachers, at an average salary of $38.42 per month. There were one hundred and ninety-four male, and one hundred and sixty-one female pupils, at an average cost per pupil per month of $1.36.


Churches.—Before the year 1830 the first Methodist itinerant threaded his way through the forest and preached to the few settlers of " Bennett's Branch " valley (Huston township). The church records of that distant period are not to be had, and hence this sketch will be very imperfect. In 1829 Revs. Oliver Ege and Alem Britain came from Philipsburgh and preached the Word to the people at Penfield. Since then the line of ministerial succession, with but few exceptions, has been unbroken. To these two honored names should be added those who have successively preached at Penfield down to the present time, namely : Revs. Burlingame, Jackson, Bowen, Hallock, Waring, Goodell, Riglesworth, Caruthers, Benn, Shafer, Hockenberry, Wirtz, Holland, Patterson, Fulton, Berry, J. L. Chandler, A. S. Chandler, Ash, J. R. King, Hooven, Heck, Chilcoat, and McCloskey. Revs. F. E. Hewitt and Thomas Hewitt also preached for years as local preachers. Rev. A. B. Hooven has twice served the charge, in 1869-71 and 1878-80.


During the pastorate of L. G. Heck, in 1872-4 a church edifice was built at Penfield, but unfortunately the society made their plans too extensive, and were not able to carry them out. It should be said that this is the exception with the Methodist Episcopal Church at large, as they are building and paying for two churches every day of the year.


The panic, with its pressing influence, increased the financial difficulties of the Methodist Society at Penfield ; but E. M. Chilcoat came on the circuit, and there occurred in the new church a great revival, which wonderfully strengthened Methodism and also Presbyterianism in Penfield. During Rev. Chilcoat's pastorate the Caledonia circuit was divided into two charges named the Penfield and Benezett circuits, respectively. The church thus made strong by the revival, attempted to pay the church debt, but in spite of all the building was sold during the pastorate of A. B. Hooven, and passed into the hands of O. Dodge, to whom $1,100 was due. In addition to this sum, J, H. Kooker held a claim, which, though not strictly legal, the society felt bound in honor to pay. After the sale of the church, pastor and people set to work to redeem it, and before Mr. Hooven left $500 was paid to Mr. Dodge. During the term of A. D. McCloskey the remainder of Mr. Dodge's claim had been paid, and Mr. Kooker, having canceled half of his claim, has received the remainder, save a small sum assumed by the Ladies' Aid Society. The church edifice is a two-story building with a cupola, having within it a fine bell, weighing eight hundred pounds, a lecture-room and two class-rooms below, and an auditorium above. The present membership is one hundred and forty, and a Sunday school in connection of about one hundred members. L. M. Brady is the present pastor. The charter of incorporation for the Penfield Church was secured in November, 1882.


Penfield circuit embraces five appointments : Webbs, in Elk county, and Mill Run, Penfield, Winterburn, and Hickory, in Huston, Clearfield county, Rev. E. M. Chilcoat was the first minister who preached in the town of Winterburn, the services being held in a barn.


Presbyterian Church.—The Presbyterian church at Penfield was organized September 3, 1872, with twelve members. The church edifice was erected in 1874, on a lot 60 by 239 feet, donated by Hiram Woodward, who also gave $600 in cash. For most of the time, up to October, 1876, the pulpit was occupied by the following ministers : Revs. D. W. Cassett (about three months), S. T. Thompson, Montgomery, J. L. Landis, Fleming, and J. R. Henderson, mostly under the appointment of the Board of Home Missions. After this Rev. William M. Burchfield, of Du Bois—at that time—preached alternate Sundays till March, 1881. On May 21, 1881, Rev. J. V. Bell became the regular pastor until he was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. J. C. Garver.


There is a good parsonage in connection with the church, and all free from debt. The present membership is over one hundred and thirteen. A union Sunday-school was organized at an early date. The Presbyterian Sunday school was organized in 1872. The present number of scholars is about one hundred.


This organization was somewhat instrumental in organizing Bethany Church at Du Bois, through the efforts of Mr. L. Bird.


Reformed Church.—In August, 1883, Rev. Daniel H. Leader, a missionary of the " Reformed Church in the United States," at Du Bois, commenced work on a church building in Hickory Kingdom. The corner-stone was laid in September of the same year, and the church was dedicated June 22, 1884. The dedicatory sermon was delivered by Rev. J. M. Evans, of Curlsville, Pa. The building cost $780. The membership of this congregation is about twenty-five. A Sunday-school was organized May, 1883. R. E. Crum is the present pastor.


Free Methodists.—During 1883 or '84 this denomination effected an organization at Mount Pleasant, but the writer failed to secure data.


Orders and Societies.—Good Templars : Penfield Lodge of L O. of G. T. was organized in 1868. Among the leaders of the movement were John H. Kooker (now in Florida), David Horning, H. A. Pearsall, and Mrs. H. Woodward. The organization at the start had from twenty-five to thirty members, and the membership soon reached eighty, but general apathy setting in, the membership fell to about forty at the present writing.


Open Temperance Society —This society was organized about 1882 by Rev. D. D. McCloskey. It continues to hold monthly meetings, and is doing good work.


G. A. R.—The T. B. Winslow Post No. 266 (of Penfield) was instituted in July, 1882. A charter was granted July 19, the same year. A "Court" charter was granted September, 1884, to this post, qualifying it to own real estate. The leading organizers were George Williams (deceased) and Dr. J. H. Kline. The post started with seventeen charter members, and soon counted fifty-five members, but this number was diminished by removals, deaths and other causes to a present membership of sixteen. The post owns real estate which it values at $3,500; indebtedness, $2,200.


K. of P.—This order effected an organization (in Penfield) June 29, 1883, with twenty-seven charter members ; its present membership is sixty-nine. The lodge is in a prosperous condition ; no debts, and a surplus in the treasury. Future prospects are good. The present officers are P. C, J. H. Bowersox ; C. C, J. F. Redifer ; V. C, G. W. Daugherty ; P., L. C. Shreckengost ; M. A., William Larkin ; I. G., T. B. Turner ; O. G., W. S. Frisbie ; K. R. and S., T. W. Letts; M. of F., W. L. Bear ; M. of E., J. M. Daily. The lodge has twelve past chancellors. The D. D. G. C. belongs to this lodge.


P. 0. S. of A.—Washington Camp No. 220 was organized (at Penfield) December 2, 1886, with twenty-nine charter members. The number of members on roll March 1, 1887, is forty, number of members balloted for at above date, but not initiated, twelve. The " Camp " is growing rapidly, and is in a flourishing condition, is out of debt, and has about one hundred dollars in its treasury.


I. O. O. F.—On March 11, 1887, Penfield Lodge No. 567, I. O. O. F., was installed by Past Grand Master F. V. Vanartsdalen, assisted by Past Grand P. G. Plant. The lodge started with twelve charter members, and by dispensation twenty-seven were received and given three degrees, making a membership of thirty- nine. The following officers were elected and installed : N. G., Ed. Rubley; V. G., F. P. Simmins; treasurer, F. E. Hewit ; secretary, W. D. Woodward ; assistant secretary, B. A. Buck. Noble Grand's appointments: R. S., W. De Laney ; L. S., P. W. Boyle; war., L. Pfleger ; con., W. S. Brown ; R. S. S., E. C. Lewis ; L. S. S., R. Smith ; O. G., William Frisby ; I. G., L. C. Shreckengost. Vice Grand's appointments: R. S., Warren Lamb; L. S., F. B. Turner. This lodge starts under favorable auspices.


Bands.—Penfield enjoys a well organized "brass" band. The writer solicited, but failed to secure data.



    Crystal Springs Lodge in the 1930's


Communities in Huston Township


Gobler Knob
Mill Run
Mount Pleasant
Run Mill

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