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Miller Township History
History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, Pennsylvania by J. Simpson Africa Philadelphia, PA: Louis H. Everts, 1883, pp. 317-320. Contributed by Mike Gifford & Ken Boonie. Revised and proofread by Judy Banja.
THE township of Miller was the last organized in the county, its history as a separate body dating only from the spring of 1881. It embraces all that part of the township of Barree lying south and east of the summit of Warrior's Ridge, and extending thence to the summit of Standing Stone Mountain, which is the boundary between Miller and Brady townships and Mifflin County. It thus includes the valley of Standing Stone Creek, and within its bounds is the confluence of the east branch of that stream with the main creek. The course of Standing Stone Creek through the township is quite tortuous, and in many parts the stream has low banks, the contiguous lands being subject to overflow, and thus become somewhat swampy. In the northeastern part and along the Jackson line the banks are high and abrupt, yielding no mill-seats. Farther interior are several powers, which operate country mills.
The Pioneer History is rather meagre. One of the first settlers was Matthew Miller, the progenitor of the family from which the township took its name. Both he and his wife (Mary Dunn) were natives of County Donegal, Ireland, and emigrated to America after the Revolution, settling first in what is now Juniata County, where they lived a few years, when they came to what is now Miller township. They occupied a large tract of land on Warrior's Ridge, most of which has remained in the possession of the family ever since. Matthew Miller became very aged, dying in 1827, it is believed, at the age of one hundred and five years. Mrs. Miller was ninety-five years old at the time of her death. Of their family of six children the only daughter, Margaret, born in Ireland, married Robert Stewart, and lived on an adjoining farm in Miller. The sons, James, David, Thomas, Samuel, and John, all became old men.
The first named married Betsey Wheeler, and in 1821 moved to the State of Ohio, settling in Greene County. David married Mary Barr, and settled on part of the homestead, but before his death moved to Mooresville, in West township. He had three sons, Stephen, William, and David, and daughters who married Robert Johnston, James Oaks, and Abraham B. Miller, of Porter. The third son, Thomas, married Sarah Coen for his first wife, and had one son, John; his second wife was Sarah Foster, and their children were sons named Samuel, James, Silas, and Thomas. Their daughters became the wives of Samuel Silknitter, James Stewart, Dorsey Silknitter, and David Cunningham, of Jackson. Samuel, the fourth son, married Charlotte Graffius, of West township, and remained on the homestead until his death in May, 1855, from injuries received by the kick of a horse. He reared a family of nine sons, whose average height was six feet, all being well-formed men, viz.: Judge Graffius Miller, of Huntingdon; Dr. Matthew, of McAlevy's Fort; James, living on the homestead; Jacob, on an adjoining farm; Abraham B., living in Porter; John S., of Huntingdon; Dr. Benjamin F., who died in Virginia in 1855; Samuel, who died on the homestead in 1861; and Dr. David P. Miller, a practicing physician of Huntingdon borough. John Miller, the fifth son of Matthew Miller, became a Methodist minister at the age of eighteen years, and after creditably serving a number of appointments died in Baltimore in 1877. He was the father of two daughters, who married William Furlong and William Crawford.
At the time Robert Stewart came from Ireland he was a single man, and after marrying Margaret Miller he also settled on the ridge. A daughter, Margaret, became the wife of James Burns, of West Virginia; and the sons were John, James, David, William, and Miller. The latter became a physician, and is a resident of Pine Glen; William lives in Centre County; James resides on part of the homestead; and John lived on an adjoining farm until his death in January, 1877, the farm now being occupied by his son Frank.
The Cunningham family came from Tuscarora Valley about 1800, and settled in the northeastern part of Miller. John Cunningham was the father of sons named William, living in the southern part of the county; John, living in the same locality; Richard, married to Sarah Johnston, and living on the place now owned by his son David, while a sister married John Gregory, of Shaver's Creek Valley; Josiah, married to Anna Moore, was for some years a merchant at Huntingdon; and Robinson, married to a Miss McCauley, who were the parents of John Cunningham, of Logan township. The Cunninghams are among the substantial farmers of the county, and rank among its active business men.
On Warrior's Ridge, in what is now Miller, Gilbert Chaney was one of the early settlers. He was the father of sons named James, John, Gilbert, and Shadrach. The latter became a Methodist minister. A daughter became the wife of William Barr, of Jackson township.
At the foot of the ridge, on the present Myton farm, Edward Couch made an early settlement. He reared a family which was very active in developing the resources of the township. Of these, William was the father of W. Durbin Couch, of Altoona. Andrew Couch was married to Rebecca Green, a daughter of Elisha Green, and was the father of William Couch, of Miller; George G. Couch, of McVeytown; John C. Couch, of Pittsburgh; Nicholas Couch, of Missouri; and of daughters who married Graffius Miller and Alexander Port.
The Crownover brothers, Thomas, William, and Hezekiah, although not among the earliest of the settlers in Miller, have long been connected with its history. The former reared sons named John, Daniel, Thomas, and William, as well as daughters who married James Coy and Jacob Hummell. The latter had daughters who married, - Sarah, Job Slack; Martha, Robert Askins; and Susan, Rev. W. H. S. Keys. His sons were Andrew Crownover, of Saulsburg; John, of Huntingdon; Ferguson, of Standing Stone Valley, in Miller; Hezekiah, of the same locality; and Robert, of Manor Hill. The sons of William Crownover were Hezekiah, Thomas, and Samuel. Of his daughters, Nancy married Joseph B. Henderson and Robert Green.
John Coy, of German descent, after living for some time in Jackson, became a resident of Miller about 1800, and lived on the farm now occupied by his grandson, William, until his death, about 1851. His family consisted of two sons and two daughters, the latter marrying William Couch and Daniel Crownover. The oldest son, James, married Nancy Crownover, and died on the homestead in 1876 at the age of eighty-four years. He was the father of Thomas Coy, who died in 1853; of John Coy, living in Henderson; and of William Coy, living on the homestead.
In 1881 the township contained between four and five hundred inhabitants.
Civil Organization. - Owing to the difficulty of crossing Warrior's Ridge, the formation of a new township south of that natural boundary was contemplated as early as 1857. Accordingly, in April, 1859, John S. Isett and John Porter, together with J. Simpson Africa, were appointed by the court to consider the advisability of forming a new township, to be composed of parts of Barree and Jackson. They reported, Aug. 10, 1859, that the formation of a new township, with natural boundaries described, was feasible, but when the matter was referred to the electors, agreeably to an act of the Assembly of April 24, 1857, they decided, at an election held Nov. 1, 1859, by a vote of one hundred and fifty-seven against seventy, that they did not favor the formation of the proposed township, and the matter was allowed to rest.
The action which led to the formation of the present township was taken first at the April, 1880, court, when Robert McDevitt, William B. Zeigler, and M. L. Shaffner were appointed commissioners to consider the advisability of dividing Barree township. They reported, Aug. 19, 1880, that they began their labors June 2, 1880, and continued from day to day until completed, deeming the division advisable and for the best interests of the people of the township. The line of division prayed for by the petitioners, and recommended by the commissioners, was as follows:
"Beginning at the corner of West and Oneida townships, on the line between the said townships and Barree, on the lands of John C. Davis, and thence north sixty-six and one-half degrees, east thirteen hundred and twelve perches, or miles, passing through the lands of John C. Davis, George Cresswell, Frank Heffright, Thomas Shipton, Jackson Harmon, Joseph Gibbony, heirs of John Stewart, James Stewart, Gilbert Horning, and David Cunningham, leaving the house of Joseph Gibbony twenty-four perches to the left of the line, and that of James Stewart seven perches to the right of the same, and ending at a post on the line between Jackson and Barree, near the bridge, on the public road, close to the residence of Asbury M. Oaks, in Jackson township."
The commissioners suggested that the southeast part retain the name of Barree and the northwest part be known by the name of "Manor," both being local and appropriate names.
The court confirmed the report, and ordered an election to be held to test the minds of the people upon the proposed division. A report of the same was returned Nov. 6, 1880, which showed that one hundred and ninety-six voted for the division and that twenty-four were opposed thereto. On the 8th of November, 1880, the court decreed that the township be divided in accordance with the report, and that the southeast part be called by the name of Miller, while the northwest part be known by the name of Barree.
The place for holding the election in Miller township was fixed at Smith's school-house, near Cornpropst's Mills, and the township officers elected in 1881 were as follows: Constable, William Eckley; Supervisors of Roads, T. S. Jackson and William Allison; Auditors, R. A. Ramsey, E. L. Cox, and William Couch; School Directors, J. A. Conch, A. L. Couch, M. L. Green, John Henry, and Thomas Milligen.
General Industries. - A mill was built on Stone Creek about 1828, by Hezekiah Crownover, which was operated by him until his death, the original mill being displaced by the present one about 1848. It is supplied with two runs of stones, and is operated only on custom-work. The present owner is Hezekiah Crownover, Jr. Above that power small saw-mills have been maintained by the Wilsons, Couches, and others. At where was the Couch saw-mill, a few miles below the Jackson line, a forge was built about 1835 by William Couch, which received the name of "Rebecca." This forge was operated upon metal furnished by the Greenwood Furnace, in Jackson, and had a number of owners and lessees. In 1843 it was carried on by William McClure, who operated the Couch mills, farther down the stream, at the same time, and was otherwise engaged in the township. In 1842 he shipped grain by the Havre de Grace Canal to Baltimore, his cargo being first towed into the city. At this time Rebecca Forge was briskly carried on, and a good business was transacted a number of years later. In 1847 a small blast-furnace was built at this point which was not successfully operated, and was discontinued after a few years. A dullness in the iron trade soon caused all these interests to be abandoned, not again to be resumed, and nothing but the ruins of the furnace-stack remains to indicate the place these industries once occupied.
A little more than a mile above the Oneida township line a power was improved by Thomas Green which was made to operate a grist-mill, which later became the property of Andrew Couch. The original mill was destroyed by fire, and another one was erected on its site. This became widely and favorably known as the Couch mill, and was carried on by that family a number of years. Thence the mill became the property of Henry Cornpropst, and with this transfer came a change of name. The locality is yet known as Cornpropst's Mill, although the property at present belongs to Joseph Henderson. At the mill a store and shops are maintained. The first to engage in trade was George Couch, and among the successive tradesmen have been John S. Miller, Barton Greene, H. Crownover, and the present firm of Blair & Cox. About a dozen years ago a post-office with the name of Cornpropst's Mill was here established, which is yet continued, and in 1881 had James Blair for postmaster. Several mails per week are supplied from Huntingdon. This is the only office and place of business in the township, there being no hamlet or village within its bounds.
The Stone Creek Baptist Church was the first regularly organized religious body in Miller. A half-century ago a number of persons living in this part of Standing Stone Valley had their membership with the church at Huntingdon, and for their accommodation a preaching-place was here established. The organization of the present church followed in 1842. It was constituted by the Rev. W. M. Jones with eighteen members. Mr. Jones was at that time pastor of the Huntingdon Church, and in 1843 and 1844 was also the pastor of Stone Creek Church. The subsequent ministers were: 1845-46, Rev. J. S. Christine; 1847, Rev. D. W. Hunter, a licentiate supply; 1848-49, Rev. A. A. Anderson; 1851-55, Rev. J. B. Williams; 1858, Rev. G. W. English, a licentiate supply; 1859-64, Rev. W. B. Purdy; 1866-67, Rev. B. B. Henshey; 1868-78, Rev. J. D. Thomas; and since 1879 the Rev. W. P. Hile, serving this church in connection with Shaver's Creek and Centre Union. The latter body is an offspring of Standing Stone Creek Church, twenty members being dismissed in 1873 to form a new society. This had the effect of greatly reducing the membership of Standing Stone Creek Church, which had in 1880 but thirty-six members. The present house of worship was first occupied in 1870, and was erected to take the place of a former house which had become unfitted for public worship. The same year the church erected a meeting-house in Oneida township, which is now the property of Centre Union Church. The whole number baptized in Standing Stone Creek Church was one hundred and twenty-eight. It was while being pastor of this church that the Rev. J. D. Thomas died very suddenly, Nov. 4, 1878. Mr. Thomas was a resident of the township, and died highly esteemed by every one. It was through his efforts that the church built two houses of worship in 1870, an undertaking of no inconsiderable importance for a country congregation.
The Wesley Methodist Episcopal Chapel is another house of worship in Miller township. It was built on a lot donated for this purpose by William Eckley, and was dedicated Dec. 17, 1880, by the Rev. E. J. Gray, of Dickinson Seminary, assisted by Dr. Mitchell. It is a neat frame building, and cost about one thousand dollars. The committee under whose direction it was built was composed of Robert A. Ramsey, Christian Peightal, Andrew Chaney, Thomas Crownover, and the Rev. W. A. Clippinger, at that time preacher in charge of the circuit. Wesley Chapel took the place of an old meeting-house which was built about 1846, on the land of Joseph Miller. It was demolished when the present house was built. At Wesley Chapel worship forty-five members, under the leadership of Robert A. Ramsey, and belonging to Ennisville Circuit. Of this circuit the preachers in charge since its formation in 1872 have been the following: 1872-73, Rev. Elisha Shoemaker; 1874-75, Rev. Isaac Heckman; 1876, Rev. W. J. Owens; 1877-78, Rev. W. A. Stephens; 1879-81, Rev. W. A. Clippinger. Prior to the formation of Ennisville Circuit the members had their ministerial service from Manor Hill Circuit, and still earlier from the old Huntingdon Circuit. The Sabbath-school at Wesley Chapel has W. W. French for its superintendent. The attendance is not large, but the interest is well maintained. Not far from the chapel is a fine grove, where were formerly held old-fashioned camp-meetings.
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