History of McKean County
J.H. Beers, Chicago, 1890
Lafayette Township


Township History

LAFAYETTE TOWNSHIP occupies almost the west half of the center of the county. It is distinguished by three great plateaus or table lands: the Lafayette, in the center, extending from the southwest to the northeast five miles, and attaining a width of two and a half miles north of Lafayette corners; the Alton, east and southwest of the East branch, extending into Bradford, Keating and Hamilton townships, being eleven miles long in its southwest course, and five miles wide in a line north of Alton, or from Crawford's to the east fork of Three Mile run; the Marshburg, west of the east branch of the Tuna, and east of the west branch, extending southwest to the valley of the Kinzua, one branch running into the center of Hamilton township, which forms the divide between Chappel fork on the north, Turnip run on the east, and the Kinzua on the south. The greatest length is twelve miles, from a point west of Custer, through Marshburg to Union run. At Lafayette corners the elevation is 2,143 feet above the ocean; at Marshburg, 2,108 feet, the divide between Winter Green and Turnip runs is 2,165 feet; at Buttsville, 1,998 feet; at Alton, 2,072 feet; on creek at Big Shanty, 1,666 feet; at head of Two Mile run, 2,058 feet, and at Bingham's dry well, 1,673 feet. The dip of the rock in the sixth bituminous basin averages only twenty feet per mile to the southwest. Alton being in the central portion, the greatest dip occurs there, being fifty-eight feet between Bond Vein and that point, a distance of little over half-mile. The lowest dip averages five feet per mile, between Marshburg and Lafayette. King & Co.'s well, the first at Big Shanty, showed oil sand at a depth of 1,545 feet, or 127 feet above tide water; while in the Prentiss well, Lewis run, oil sand was struck at 227 feet above tide, or at a depth of 1,378 feet.

The Clermont coal deposit underlies the slate, shale and sandstone-capped peaks northeast and southwest of Alton, throughout the Lafayette plateau, and in the summit, southwest of Marshburg, where the cap rocks are deep, the coal is valuable, as in the old Davis mine, and in the old openings on the Newell, Bullock, Root and Whitman lands, the bottoms of all of which rest from 2,130 to 2,145 feet above tide level. This deposit is generally separated from the Alton upper coal layers by Johnson run sandstone, the thickness of which ranges from fifty to sixty feet; but near Bond Vein a black and blue slate occupied this position; on the Bullock lands a hard sandstone, and on the Matthews' lands a sandstone, separated by a six-feet deposit of red rock, rests on a twelve-inch bed of coal. The Alton deposit ranges from four to seven feet. It has been worked at Buttsville, Alton and Bon Vein. The latter mine was worked in 1877-78, by James E. Butts, for the Longwood Coal Company, giving three shallow beds above the bottom, third bed 2,034 feet above tide. The Malony mine showed six to eight feet of bony coal near the roof, and Alton coal, in two distinct beds, before reaching the hard, sandy, fire-clay deposit.

In July, 1863, the Lafayette Coal Company was incorporated, with William Cockroft of New York City, president. The Owen mine, near Buttsville, was opened years ago by Mr. Owen. In April, 1868, the Longwood Company - James E. Butts, E. Sears, I.P.T. Edwards, E.D. Winslow, G.P. Hayward, Lem. Shaw and W.F. Grubb, directors - began operations, 2,065 feet above tide level, on a solid two and one-half feet bench; but owing to its irregularity, work was abandoned. At James E. Butts' house the lower coal was found twenty-eight feet below the surface. In 1865 the Lafayette Coal Company began operations near Mr. Alton's log house, constructing a 280-feet slope to a point in the cannel and bituminous deposit, seventy feet below the level of the opening. This and several other shafts were abandoned. On the Hagadorn and Armstrong lands and at the old Davis mine explorations were made years ago.

The Seven Foot Knoll, on the Keating township line, was opened 2,053 feet above the tide level, and won its name on account of the four heavy coal benches discovered in a seventy-two feet hole, the coal being overlaid by thin beds of carbonate of iron; while in Shaft No. 1, opened 2,083 above tide, 270 feet southwest of the mouth of the drift, nodular iron ore takes the place of iron carbonate. In the vicinity several shafts were constructed, and the enterprise was carried so far by Allen Putnam, of Boston, as to explore near the old Butts saw-mill, on Three Mile creek, at an elevation of 2,037 feet. The drill went through 113 feet, meeting only two small seams.

Lafayette township had a population of 1,266 in 1880. Of this number seventy-three were residents of Buttsville. In 1888 there were 128 Republican, 127 Democrat, 5 Prohibition and 12 United Labor votes recorded, a total of 272, which multiplied by five represents a population of 1,360. Following are the returns of the vote cast in Lafayette township in February, 1890: For road supervisors, Pete Wagner (D.), 124; James Barnes, Jr. (D.), 103; Walter Cassidy (R.), 131; Charles Harding (R.), 95. For school directors, D. Kennedy (D.), 134; J.C. Cannon (D.), 77; P.H. Freel (R.), 140; John Green (R.), 125. For collector, J.H. Fleming (D.), 143; J.C. Haven (R.), 101. For town clerk, M. Ryan, Jr. (D.), 124; H.L. Sherwood (R.), 109. For constable, First District, W.W. Lenox (D.), 102; Second District, Frank Sprague, 93. For auditors, James Donovan (D.), 141; M. McCarten (D.), 150; J.C. Jones (R.), 116; C.L. Milton (R.), 100.

The resident tax-payers of Lafayette township in 1843-44, as certified by Jasper Marsh, assessor, were Jane Armstrong, Abram and Mary Anderson, Albert and Rufus Beeman, Joe Brush, George W. Brown, Abram Brothwell, Andrew Cush, L. Davis, Allen, David and William Foster, William Grannis, Aaron Hagadorn, James Hoop, William Howard, Washington Higby, J. Iverson, C. Leach, Jacob Lewis, Henry Luce, Jonathan, J.C. and Jasper Marsh, John Mulligan, Oliver Matthews, David Monteith, John Newton, William G. Presley, Job Poots, Lewis Ransom, John Shepley, Nathan and George Tenney, Zira Tobbs and William C. Webber. The total value of their property as assessed was $4,580, while the unseated lands were assessed at $27,688.

The east and west State road was laid out by Joel Sartwell, Hiram Payne and Jonathan Marsh through the center of McKean county in 1838, at a time when only four families, Joseph Brush, Nathan Tenney, Hoop and Anderson, resided in Lafayette, and two years before Taintor, Davis and Hagadorn settled there.

Albert Beeman, who died near Mount Alton, in February, 1880, was credited with being the discovered of the coal beds about Alton and Lafayette. For years he was king of the hunters of this county, and was also farmer and lumberman.

Mary Anderson, who died at Anderson Station, on the Kinzua, in December, 1889, was in her one hundred and third year. She settled there in 1836, and five years later her husband was frozen to death near Marshburg. Her son James is now seventy-seven years old.

Mount Alton, the leading village of the township, contains a number of industrial establishments and the usual number of stores found in villages of its size. Chief among its industries are the Mount Alton Chemical Works, McClain & Co.'s and Weaver & Droney's lumber factories, and J.B. Phillips saw-mill, which give employment to many of the inhabitants.

The Alton Chemical Works were established in October, 1887, at Bond Vein, with twelve retorts, and had contracts for all the acetate of lime and wood alcohol that could be produced up to 1888. The acid works were destroyed by fire in March, 1889. The flames spread through the spacious building - the dimensions of which were 200x175 feet - and in a short time it was reduced to smouldering ruins. The loss on the building and contents is estimated at $15,000; insurance, $6,000. The Alton Chemical Company is composed of J.C. Greenewald, A.L. Wyman, Sterns & Milligan of Bradford, and J.W. Beacom and D. Hilton of Alton. No time was lost in re-establishing this important manufacturing concern. In July, 1889, George Beaumont was appointed post-master at Alton.

In the fall of 1866 Newcomb & Hagadorn established their store at Alton, and in March, 1867, L.S. Bard and A.N. McFall opened their hotel (which was burned afterward), and a daily mail service to Smethport established.

Kinzua Lodge No. 442, I.O.O.F., the leading secret association of Mount Alton and neighborhood, elected the following named officers in December, 1889:

  • N.G., George H. Graff
  • V.G., C.D. Tenny
  • Sec., J.S.C. Graham
  • Asst. Sec., Simon Crites
  • Treas., J.M. Park
  • W., F. Aldrich
  • Con., H.L. Sherwin
  • O.G., P.A. Evarts
  • I.G., C. Harding
  • R.S. to N.G., M. Quinn
  • L.S. to N.G., T. Elmore

Alton Encampment, Knights of St. John and Malta, at Alton, was organized in 1888.

The cyclone of September 28, 1884, swept away six houses, as well as the new Methodist church building at Alton. In April, 1886, thirty Italian laborers found themselves imprisoned in the Erie Railroad Company's burning construction shanty at Alton. Twenty-four men escaped only to witness the roasting of six companions, whose lives went out with the blaze. The Mount Alton tragedy of September 26, 1889, resulted in the death of Mrs. Isabel Quinn. Her husband, J.H. Quinn, a Scotch-Irishman, was the murdered, and his insane jealousy the cause. A coroner's jury found in accordance with the facts. The murdered was taken to jail at once, but during the evening he wove a rope out of his large silk handerchief and some time after 3 o'clock on the morning of the 27th hanged himself in the cell. The post-office of Lafayette was discontinued in November, 1872, owing to the resignation of the postmaster, but was soon after restored.

Lafayette Township Biographical Sketches

J. W. BEACON, Mount Alton, was born in Westmoreland county, Penn., April 13, 1844, a son of Johnson W. and Rebecca (Miller) Beacon, former a native of Westmoreland county, latter of Allegheny county, Penn. His father was a farmer by occupation, was a stanch member of the Democratic party and filled various township offices. He and his wife were prominent members of the Presbyterian Church, in which he was an elder for many years. Mr. Beacon died in Westmoreland county, Penn., in 1868; his widow is still living and resides on the homestead. They had a family of five children, three of whom are still living, viz.: Cyrus Scott, of Westmoreland county; Rev. John J., pastor of the Presbyterian Church, of Pittsburgh, Penn., and J.W., our subject, who was reared on the homestead farm and obtained a common-school education. He is among the pioner oil producers, having operated on the Storey farm in Venango county. In 1879 he came to McKean county and located at Mount Alton, and in 1881 established a general mercantile business; he has served as postmaster since September, 1885. In 1872 he was married to Miss Lottie Gappen, of Washington county, Penn., and they have six children: William, Jessie, Harry, Orpha, Ella and Paul M. Mr. Beacon is an active member of the Democratic party, and for several years has served as school director of the township. He is a member of McKean Lodge, No. 51, F. & A.M., of Smethport; of the Knights of St. John of Malta, of Alton; of Columbian League, of Alton, and of Kinzua Lodge, No. 541, I.O.O.F., of Bradford. In 1889 he retired from the mercantile business, and moved to Randolph, N.Y., where he is drilling with the expectation of supplying the place with gas.

GEORGE E. BEAUMONT, merchant, Mount Alton, was born in Rocky Hill, Hartford Co., Conn., January 17, 1845, a son of Charles and Mary (Pratt) Beaumont, natives of that State. His father was a harness maker and saddler, and in 1847 moved his family to Illinois, but returned to Connecticut in 1857. He was a Republican and a member of the Presbyterian Church; he died in Connecticut, and his widow is still living. George E. Beaumont received an ordinary education, and at the age of fourteen years left home and shipped as a cabin-boy on a coasting vessel running on the Connecticut and Hudson rivers. In 1862 he shipped aboard a transport carrying a cargo of hay and oats for the Union soldiers. In 1863 he went to Philadelphia and obtained a position as inspector of oil, afterward was located at Pittsburgh and Oil City in the same capacity. In 1881 he came to McKean county, and for three years acted as gauger for the United Pipe Line Company; since then he has been engaged in the mercantile business at Mount Alton. In 1867 he married Miss Emma L. Ward, daughter of Egbert S. Ward, of Pittsburgh, and they have four children: William, Schuyler Colfax, George E. Jr., and Fannie Ellison. Mr. Beaumont is a member of the Knights of St. John of Malta; in politics he is a Republican. He has served one term as township auditor, and has also acted as school director, being now on his second term; he is also postmaster at Mount Alton, having been commissioned August 6, 1889. Mrs. Beaumont is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

ORLANDO HAGADORN, farmer, P.O. Lafayette, Penn., is a son of Aaron Hagadorn, who was born in Saratoga county, N.Y., January 4, 1806, of Dutch parentage on the father's side, the mother, nee Mary Schemerhorn, being a native of New Jersey. October 13, 1839, Aaron married Miss Abigail Walker, who was born in Vermont in 1808, and moved with her parents to New Hampshire and afterward to Broome county, N.Y. In February, 1843, Mr. Hagadorn and wife came to McKean county, and purchased their present farm in Lafayette township. Here they started in the wilderness, single-handed, and by their own hard labor, cleared and improved their farm, and made themselves well to do. Mr. Hagadorn has been an active worker in the Republican party, and has filled various important township offices. He and his wife both united with the Methodist Episcopal Church when eighteen years of age, and have ever since led an active Christian life. For many years Mr. Hagadorn was class leader of the church. They have reared three children, one of whom, the eldest, Henry D., was a member of the Fifty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, Company H, and was killed at the battle of Cold Harbor. The living are George W., engaged in the feed business at Salamanca, N.Y., and Orlando, our subject, who was born in Union, Broome Co., N.Y., March 23, 1841, and came to McKean county with his parents. He received the advantages of the township schools, and has always lived on his present homestead. October 23, 1861, he was united in marriage with Miss Rachel, daughter of Alexander Hoag, a native of Scotland, and now a resident of Salamanca, N.Y. To them have been born two children: Samuel H. and Jennie L. Mr. Hagadorn has always been identified with the Republican party, and has served the township as school director, constable, poor master, etc. His wife and family are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

MARK HARDIE, farmer and agent for the Lafayette Coal & Land Company, Mount Alton, was born in County Armagh, Ireland, December 10, 1843, a son of John and Mary Jane Hardie, former a native of same county. His mother's father was a soldier in the British army, and was in the battle of Waterloo. Mark Hardie moved with his parents to Scotland and located near Glasgow, where he received an ordinary education, and was also educated for a practical miner. He was married in Salisbury, Scotland, by Rev. John Ritchie, of Shotsburn, in 1863, to Miss Sarah Jane Stewart, who was born in Ireland. Her parents, William and Mary (Brown) Stewart, were Highland people, who moved from Scotland when she was three years of age. In 1865 our subject and wife emigrated to Canada, and later in the same year they came to the United States, first locating in Bedford county, Penn., where Mr. Hardie began prospecting for ore, coal and limestone for the Huntingdon & Broad Top Railroad Company, and afterward sunk a shaft to the coal at Fairplay, Penn., and assisted in opening a new drift for Wigton & Co. He also prospected successfully in Somerset county, Penn. In the spring of 1866 he came to McKean county and engaged with the Bondvein or Gilsville Coal Company, Lafayette & Longwood Company, and located in Lafayette township. He is one of the early prospectors in this part of the State, and has done much toward developing the coal, ore, etc. He also prospected over the State for Gen. Thomas L. Kane. For many years he has successfully conducted the agency for the Lafayette Land Company. He has a wide business acquaintance among many of the largest business men of Pittsburgh and other States. Mr. Hardie is an active member of the Republican party. In 1876 he was elected justice of the peace of Lafayette township, also treasurer of the board of education for three years. Mr. Hardie is a member of nearly all the secret societies; among the most prominent are Bradford Lodge, No. 334, F. & A.M.; Bradford Chapter, No. 260, R.A.M.; Bradford Council, No. 43, R. & S.M.; Tuna Valley Lodge, K. of P.; charter member and past grand of Kinzua Lodge, No. 442, I.O.O.F., of Mount Alton; charter member of the Knights of St. John of Malta; assistant State deputy and counselor of the Knights of the Maccabees; charter member of the Big Shanty Lodge, and past chief of the Good Templars Lodge. He and family are members of the Presbyterian Church. In connection with his other business Mr. Hardie conducts a fine farm just outside of the village of Mount Alton. Mr. and Mrs. Hardie are the parents of ten children, viz.: Margaret, wife of H.L. Shurwin, of Mount Alton, Penn., has two children, Alfred LeRoy and William; Mary, principal of the Mount Alton school; William S., on the United States boat "Boston;" Elizabeth, a teacher in the intermediate department of the Mount Alton school; Ella, Mark Alexander, Jennie, Sarah, Laura Edna and George Walter, at home. Mr. Hardie has recently prospected across the State on the bituminous coal belt, and finds near the New York or northern line of Pennsylvania the coal lies near the surface and in small deposits of coal are larger, thicker, and more pure, i.e., free from sulphur and other substances, and, on account of so much oil and gas being now produced in Lafayette township, the coal at present does not pay to work, but will in the future.

J. B. PHILLIPS, merchant, Mount Alton, was born in New Richmond, Crawford Co., Penn., April 1, 1856, a son of Ananias and Julia (Gale) Phillips, former a native of Washington county, N.Y., and latter of Plattsburg, St. Lawrence Co., N.Y. His father located in Crawford county, Penn., when seventeen years of age, and was one of the pioneers of that county. He is a farmer by occupation, and is still living. For many years he was an official member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a prominent worker for the Republican party. J.B. Phillips was reared on the homestead farm, and obtained a common-school education. At the age of sixteen years he apprenticed himself to a merchant at Mill Village, Erie Co., Penn., and remained with him three years. He was then in business for himself six years at the same place. In 1881 he came to Bradford, McKean county, and, in connection with his brother, A.G. Phillips, engaged in the wholesale produce business. In the fall of the same year Mr. Phillips came to Mount Alton, and has since conducted his present general store, and is also engaged in lumbering. In 1876 he married Miss Clara, daughter of Gates H. and Sophia (Willey) Manross, natives of Erie county, and they have two children, Harry B. and an infant. Mr. Phillips is a supporter of the Republican party, and has served as school director of the township. He is trustee and steward in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

OHN SIMPSON, oil producer and merchant, Riderville, P.O. Mount Alton, was born in Sugar Grove, Warren Co., Penn., September 15, 1851, a son of John and Melvina Simpson, natives of that county and farmers by occupation, who were prominent members of the Lutheran Church. Our subject received a common-school education, and has followed the oil business in all its branches, having worked at rig building, tool dressing, etc. In 1879 he came to McKean county, where for five years he worked at rig building, and has since been oil producing, now operating eight wells. In 1885 he established his present general store at Riderville, where he acted as postmaster until the office was discontinued. May 1, 1881, he married Miss Mary, daughter of John Hill, of Warren county, Penn., and they have three children: George, Annie and John. Mr. Simpson is a supporter of the Republican party. Mrs. Simpson is a member of the Lutheran Church.

WILLIAM TALBUT, farmer, P.O. Lafayette, was born in the town of Virgil, Cortland Co., N.Y., July 16, 1814, a son of William and Elizabeth (Preston) Talbut, natives of Otsego and Herkimer counties, respectively. They were among the early settlers of Cortland county, and followed farming there up to the time of their death, being hard-working, Christian people. William Talbut, the subject of these lines, received but a limited education. In 1836 he married Miss Esther Maria Steele, a native of Connecticut, and a settler of Otsego county, N.Y. February 9, 1846, they came to McKean county and located on their present farm, clearing and improving the same. They reared eight children, all of whom are deceased except the following-named three: Esther, wife of A.J. Parker, of Smethport, Penn.; Mary, wife of S.T. Aldridge, of Wellsville, Penn., and Amelia, wife of Lyman Merrill, of Potter county. Mr. Talbut is a supporter of the Republican party, and has served as justice of the peace five years, also as school director, supervisor, etc. He and his wife are members of the Congregational Church, but as they have no church near them, are not regular attendants of any. They are among the early families of the county, and are highly respected in the community in which they dwell.

DR. J. WARD, Mount Alton, was born in Venango county, Penn., March 7, 1859, and is a son of Robert and Nancy (McElwee) Ward, former of whom died March 3, 1887. The parents were both members of the United Presbyterian Church, of which the father was an elder for many years; he also filled various township offices, and was a supporter of the Democratic party. The subject of this sketch was reared in Crawford county, Penn. (whither his parents had moved when he was seven years of age), and his education was obtained in the select schools of that county. He early began the study of medicine in the office of Dr. A. Thompson, of Meadville, Penn., and attended lectures at the Western Reserve University, of Cleveland, Ohio, from the medical department of which he graduated in February, 1885. For two and a half years he Doctor practiced his profession at Geneva, Penn., and in November, 1887, he came to McKean county, where he has since had a large practice, with good success, in Mount Alton and vicinity. In May, 1886, Dr. Ward married Miss Marguerette Amy Haire, a native of Ireland, who was a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, from an early age, she being a lady of high standing, and a member of Trinity Episcopal Church of that place. Dr. and Mrs. Ward have one child, Amy Elizabeth, born October 1, 1888. Dr. Ward is a man possessed of many good qualities. He is a member of the United Presbyterian Church of Crawford county, a member of the County Medical Society and various other societies of McKean county. In politics he is a supporter of the Democratic party.

H. C. WISCOM, proprietor of the Lafayette House, was born in Kings county, N.Y., January 11, 1854, a son of Herman and Elizabeth (Aven) Wiscom, natives of Germany. Our subject received a common-school education, and in 1878 came to McKean county, Penn., locating at Red Rock, where he worked at the carpenter's trade. In 1883 he moved to Lafayette, where he has since been the genial and courteous landlord of the Lafayette House. In 1881 he was united in marriage with Miss Susan Johnson, a native of Canada, and they have two children: William and Raymond. Mr. Wiscom is a Democrat in politics, and is now serving as township supervisor. He is a member of Kinzua Lodge, No. 442, I.O.O.F., and of the Knights of St. John of Malta.

Contributed by Maureen M. (Buckley) Lee