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Clearfield County PAGenWeb



Union 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. 651-657. 







IN the early proceedings looking to the erection of this township, there was, perhaps, as little opposition as has attended the formation of any of the (now) thirty townships of the county. The first step in this direction was the presentation of a petition of divers inhabitants of the townships of Pike and Brady, setting forth that they labor under great inconvenience for want of a new township, and praying the appointment of three suitable persons to make the division and lay out the same from parts of the above named Pike and Brady. This petition being duly presented to the Court of Quarter Sessions, at the term thereof held during the month of September, 1848, the justice presiding appointed Alexander B. Reed, John Irvin, and Richard Shaw to examine the matter and, if advisable, make the necessary division and report their proceedings to the next court, which said report was as follows : "Alexander B. Reed and Richard Shaw, appointed by order of the court to view and lay out the township therein mentioned, after being duly sworn, do report, that in pursuance of said order they have laid out and returned said township, bounded as follows : Beginning on the line between the townships of Huston and Brady, at the northwest corner of lot No. 3603, thence east along said line to the northwest corner of lot No. 3606; thence south to the corner of Pike and Huston townships ; thence east to the northeast corner of lot No. 3587 ; thence south to the line of No. 5777 ; thence west to the line of No. 3579; thence south to the northeast corner of lot No. 3590; thence west to the southwest corner of lot No. 3581 ; thence north to place of beginning, including the farm of Caleb Bailey in the said new township, being composed of parts of the townships of Pike and Brady and containing about twenty-six square miles." The court, at the December term, 1848, confirmed the new township, "to be called and known as the township of Union."


The township of Union thus formed is perhaps (with the reduction of its territory occasioned by the formation of Bloom township), as regular in outline and boundary as any in the entire county.


Geographically it is located in what may be termed the northwestern part of the county, and has as its bounding townships, Huston on the north, the district of Pine on the east. Bloom and a small part of Pike on the south, and Brady on the west. In keeping with the topographical formation of the county in general, this township is quite hilly, but in the eastern part, and in others as well, there are extensive areas of plateau lands, either heavily timbered or remains of forest lands, from which the valuable timber has been taken, leaving large tracts covered only by fallen and decayed trees. This is especially noticeable in that part of the township lying east of Anderson Creek along the line of the old pike leading from Clearfield to Rockton. This tract is called the barren area, and embraces thousands of acres in this and Pine township as well. Passing westward from Pine into Union, there are no farms of much value, and but little valuable timber until the home of Henry Whitehead is reached. Even here the soil is light and very porous, and requires fertilizing material to make profitable results in agriculture. Still further east, on the west side of Anderson Creek, the land, although rough and hilly, has been thoroughly improved and cleared, and fine and good producing farms are the result. In the northern part of the township are many farms of great comparative value.


The main stream of the township is Anderson Creek. Its source is in Huston, on the north, from whence it flows a generally south course, entirely across Union, enters Bloom, then bears to the east by south into Pike, and discharges its waters into the Susquehanna River, at the borough of Curwensville. Anderson Creek is a stream of considerable size, and in a region not so well supplied with raftable waters as this, might be well classed among rivers. The runs auxiliary to the creek, and emptying into the same from the east, are Montgomery Run and Blanchard Run, each of which lay almost wholly within the township. On the west and having its entire course within the township, is Dressier Run, so named for the Dressier family, who were pioneers in this locality, and one of the most respected of the early settlers. The stream known as Sandy Creek also has its head-waters in the western part of Union township, from which it flows a north and west course into Brady, thence across that township and into Jefferson county on the west. Sandy, although of less size than Anderson Creek, has been nearly as prominent as the latter, during the period of extensive lumber operations, for which both of these streams have been so noted. This industry has by no means ceased, but the production of the present is insignificant compared with that of twenty- five or thirty years ago.


The second, or as it is sometimes called, the Chestnut Ridge anticlinal axis crosses, or rather, passes Union township, touching the southeast corner; it is, therefore, wholly within the third basin. The prevailing dips are north and northwest. Near Rockton the measures pitch in toward the basin at the rate of about two hundred and fifty or three hundred feet to the mile, and a short distance southeast of Rockton the dip is even greater, for on the mountain in sight of the town, the conglomerate rocks are seen at an elevation of at least five hundred feet above the Clarion sandstone near the Menonite Church.


Frequent openings have been made in various localities throughout the township, but laying, as it does, so near the axis or divide between the second and third basins, the results of such openings have not yet been sufficiently favorable to attract the attention of operators, and no more, therefore, has been taken from the beds than is necessary to supply the local demand. The prospect, however, for producing measures brightens as the northwestern part of the township is reached, for here is entered the coal deposits incident to the third basin, and of such quality as is taken from the Du Bois beds. The average thickness of the beds in such places as openings have been made, varies from one and one-half to four feet, and is generally of such quality as to be undesirable for export without coking. The Freeport Lower coal seems to predominate, although evidences of other beds are frequently found. The township has never had a thorough geological examination. The settlers who were possessed of sufficient hardihood and determination to attempt an improvement in this remote locality at an early day, were indeed scarce, and, in fact, no such attempt was made until the river and bottom lands were well-nigh taken up. The only possible inducement, even after the first quarter century of the county's history had been made, was the presence of Anderson's Creek, and its course through the township. This was then parts of Brady and Pike townships. Across the line in Brady there were a few straggling settlers, but generally, the country was a heavily wooded district with hardly sufficient opening for the erection of a cabin.


Caleb Bailey was born in Lycoming county in the year 1797, and came with his father to this county about the year 1809. After having resided in the upper part of the county for about eighteen years, he moved to lands that were, in 1848, erected into Union township, the line being especially run so as to include the Bailey farm within the new township.


Another of the pioneer settlers in this region was John Laborde, a native of Lancaster county. He came to this county in the early part" of the year 1828, and located in Brady township, but two years later moved to a point a short distance from Rockton village, where he made an improvement. His brother, David Laborde, lived nearly a mile west of this. They were the first settlers in the vicinity. Both had large families. The children of John Laborde were John, Peter, Jacob, David, Christopher, Polly, who married Henry Lininger; Peggy, Barbara, who married George Doney ; and Betsey, who married Lewis Doney. The early life in the township was attended with great privations and dangers, and the Laborde's seem to have had their full share of each. There was no store nearer than Curwensville, and no mill nearer than Pennville. The country at times seemed full of panthers and other dangerous animals, and various members of the family occasionally came in contact with them. The Laborde's have been as prolific, perhaps, as any of the old families of the township. John Hollopeter came soon after and commenced an improvement on the line of the pike leading to Luthersburg and west of Rockton. He, too, reared a large family, the descendants yet being numerous in the township. Matthias Hollopeter, brother of John, came to the county a year later and took up his residence with John. He soon began an improvement, and by hard and steady work made a good farm. The southwest part of the township is well populated with members of the Hollopeter family.


In the year 1839 John Brubaker came to the county and commenced an improvement on lands which he yet occupies about half a mile north of Rockton village. Mr. Brubaker was a native of Mifflin county, now Juniata county, and was born in the year 1810. In his family were nine children, viz.: Mary, Fanny, Daniel, Susan, Sarah, John, Joseph, Reuben and Jacob. About the year 1840 Mr. Brubaker built a still-house that the product of his farm might be utilized. This he was compelled to do as grain was then a drug in the market, and the merchants at Clearfield would not receive it in exchange for goods. About 1843 or 1844 he commenced drawing shingles and boards to Clearfield town from a small mill he had built on Sandy Creek. This proceeding was looked upon by his neighbors as a piece of folly, but when they saw the good results of it, numerous other saw-mills were soon afterward erected, and lumbering became a leading pursuit, and agriculture was proportionately neglected.


About this time, or possibly a little earlier, Jacob Burns came to the region. He built a cabin and commenced an improvement in the Dressler neighborhood. He remained here but a short time when he sold out to Dressler, and moved over on Anderson Creek, where he built a cabin and made a clearing, the first in that section. This was about a mile above the old mills at Lower Rockton. Burns soon found another opportunity to sell to good advantage, which he did, and moved still further east in the township, which was then a part of Pike.


John Dressler, who is mentioned as having succeeded Jacob Burns, was born in Union county, and came to Clearfield county in the year 1841. The farm he occupied is now reckoned among the best in the county. At the time he purchased it there was no settlement nearer than three miles. The Dresslers are among the most thrifty and enterprising people of the township. John Dressler died in 1856. He had a large family consisting of twelve children, seven daughters and five sons. David Dressler, his son, was the first justice of the peace elected in the township after its organization.


Henry Whitehead was a native of England and came to this country nearly a half century ago. He took lands on the turnpike leading from Clearfield to Luthersburg, on the east side of Anderson Creek. By hard work and energy he has made a fine farm, one of the best in the eastern part of the township. This is the first good farm with which the traveler meets on the road leading into the township from the east. It contains some two hundred acres.


The Welty family came into Union township in the year 1855, from Brady, where they settled in 1832, and was among the pioneers in the region north of Luthersburg. David Welty was the head of this family. He was born in Centre county in 1807. His first purchase in this township comprised about one hundred and sixty-five acres of land, but by subsequent purchases he acquired a tract of about five hundred acres. Some of the substantial residents of the Welty family still reside in the township, and have fine farms.


Incidental mention has been made of the fact that John Brubaker built a small saw and shingle-mill on Sandy Creek about the year 1843, from which he hauled the first lumber and shingles to Clearfield, and there found a market. In this adventure—for it was considered by his neighbors to be an adventure, and dreadful one at that—he was carefully watched, but no sooner was its success assured, than others followed his example, and embarked in the lumber business. Within the short period of eight or ten years thereafter, other mills were built by David Horn, Joseph Lyons, John Dressler, John Hollopeter and Philip Laborde. From this time until recently, lumbering has been considered of fully as much importance to the average resident as farming, and far more remunerative. The other early mills were owned by Samuel Arnold and one Munn, the latter living at the mouth of Little Anderson Creek.


At an early day and something like fifty years ago, Jason Kirk and Jeremiah Moore, two substantial residents of Penn township, came to the waters of Anderson Creek at the point now known as Lower Rockton, where they built a mill. The land herabouts, to the extent of fifty acres, was given them for a mill-site, on condition that they make the improvements. Here was built a saw-mill, and subsequently a grist-mill. The wreck of the old saw-mill is standing, but is not now in use. The grist-mill has been frequently repaired and enlarged, and now furnishes flour and feed for the surrounding country. A store was established here many years ago. The post-office was also here, but by the changes in the postmastership, the office has frequently alternated between this point and Upper Rockton, about half a mile to the west, and as often as this change has been made, so often has the location of the office been removed.


There stands at Lower Rockton an old, unused building, that was formerly occupied as a woolen-mill, the property of William F. Johnson, of Pennville. The saw and grist-mills, the store and other property at this point are now owned by Joseph Seller and sons, who became proprietors thereof in the year 1877. Upper Rockton is situate on the main road leading west from Lower Rockton, and distant from the latter place about half a mile. It was started through the efforts of John Brubaker, and others engaged in lumbering. The place has never acquired any considerable population, but comprises about a score of dwellings, a couple of stores, a hotel, and repair shops. The chief industry is the steam-power feed-mill, owned and operated by Jason E. and David W. Kirk. It was built during the year 1885.


The first school in the township stood near this place. It was built prior to 1839, a log structure with a board roof. Some years later it was replaced with a more substantial and modern building. There are now three schools in the township, distinguished by the locality in which they are located as follows: Home Camp, Spruce Hill, and Hubert, being taught respectively by Ella Stevens, Minnie Hall, and G. M. Henry.


An enrollment of the taxable inhabitants of Union township, made by R. W. Moore, assessor, in the year 1851, showed the following list of residents and landowners for that year, who were of the age of twenty-one years and upwards : Josiah Boomel, Jacob Burns, Peter H. Booze, Caleb Bailey, Daniel Brubaker, Robert Britton, Henry Baily, John Brubaker, Joseph Cuttle, John Clowser, George Clowser, John Cunningham, Nicholas Doney, Lewis Doney, George Doney, David Dupler, Franklin Dutry, John Dupler, sr., John Dupler, jr., Enos Doney, Isaac Graham, Jacob Gilnett, John Haze, David Horn, jr., Matthias Hollopeter, Elias Horn, jr., Samuel Horn, jr., John Hare, John Hollopeter, jr., Samuel Hare, Frederick Hollopeter, jr., David Irwin, John Kritzer, John Kiesigle, Hugh Krise, Jacob Laborde, John Laborde, sr., Luther & Carlisle, Joseph Longacre, Peter Laborde, Philip Laborde, David Laborde, jr., Henry Lininger, John Laborde, jr., David Laborde, sr., Peter Laborde, jr., Abram Laborde, Christian Laborde, Nathan Lines, John Long, Moore & Whitehead, Samuel Miles, R. Moore, jr., Moore & Kirk, John Nelson, jr., John Potter, jr., John Potter, sr., John -Pawley, Daniel Pawley, Henry Shull, William Shull, Alexander Schofield, Shaw & Lines, Joseph Schofield, Henry Whitehead, Jonas Weller, John H. Reed, Samuel East.


As an evidence of the vast amount of lumber taken from the forests of the township, and of the number of persons engaged in this pursuit, there was in the township at this time (1851) no less than eight saw-mills, owned as follows : John Brubaker, John Hollopeter, jr., David Irwin, Philip Laborde, Moore & Whitehead, Samuel Miles, Moore & Kirk, saw and grist-mills ; Shaw & Lines.


Lands were assessed according to quality and improvements, in amounts ranging from one to two dollars per acre. Cows were assessed at eight dollars ; horses from ten to twenty-five dollars ; oxen from twenty- five to forty dollars per yoke, and occupations at thirty dollars.


Of the three several church societies having a regular organization and houses of worship in the township, all of which churches are at Upper Rockton, the Menonite Society is the oldest. For some ten or fifteen years prior to the building of the church home, meetings were held in the houses of various members, but generally at the house of John Brubaker. He has been recognized as the leading spirit of the church here, and it was mainly through his personal efforts that the society was organized and the edifice built. Further, he has officiated as minister of the church since the days of its infancy. In the year 1861 the edifice was erected. It is a small and plain frame structure, located on the highway leading from the pike, near Kirk's mill, north toward and past Mr. Brubaker's residence. The funds for its erection were contributed mainly by Mr. Brubaker. The society is small, numbering at the present time about sixteen members. Besides the members of the Brubaker family, prominently connected with the society are the families of John Laborde and Henry Lininger. The early meetings of the Lutheran Society of this township were held in school-houses and it was not until about ten or twelve years ago that the church at Rockton was secured. The society is small, but numbers among its members some of the substantial families of the vicinity, prominent among whom are those of Simon, Peter and William Welty, Joseph Seiler, Miles Dressler, and others. The church house of the Lutheran Society is located at Upper Rockton.


The youngest of the religious societies of this locality is that known in common parlance by the distinguishing name of Dunkards, or Brethren. Although through the perseverance of Peter and Harvey Beer, a church edifice was built at Rockton in the year 1885, the society has not yet acquired any considerable strength in point of membership from this locality, but a great majority of those who are identified with the society are residents of other places. The ministers of the society are Peter and Harvey Beers, its founders. The early meetings, prior to the building of the church, were held in school houses.



              Rockton School House date unknown



Communities in Union Township


Home Camp
Rockton Station
Smith Mills

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