HISTORY OF MIFFLIN COUNTY
From Franklin Ellis' History of That Part of the Susquehanna and
Embraced in the Counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder. Philadelphia, 1886.
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At the April term of court, 1836, a petition was presented asking that the townships of Armagh and Union be divided and form two new townships. In accordance with this request, the court appointed Thomas I. Postlethwait, D. R. Reynolds and Robert Miles to view the townships and make a report. They performed the duty and reported, July 20, 1836, that they "believe it very proper to divide the townships of Armagh and Union," and presented a plot of the same as No. 1, Menno; No. 2, Union; No. 3., Brown; No. 4, Armagh. Brown was described as being in length five and a half miles and an average width from the summit of each mountain (not including the Seven Mountains) of four and a half miles. This report was accepted and confirmed at the January term of court, 1837, and the township No. 3 was named Brown, after Judge William Brown, who was the first settler in the valley, a patriot in the Revolution and the first presiding judge of the Mifflin County Court.
At the time of its erection it contained two hundred and eleven taxables, with real and personal property valued at $489,078.
The following persons were assessed other than farmers: Nathan Bullock and Washington McMonigle, school- teachers; Jacob Lotz, tavern-keeper; Robert Milliken, merchant-mill and saw-mill; heirs of John Norris, merchant- mill, saw and plaster-mill, axe-factory and tilt-hammer; Rawle & Hall, saw-mill; Joseph A. Taylor, merchant- mill and saw-mill; John Henry, Sr., carding-machine; heirs of Rev. James Johnston, clover and saw-mill; David C. Miller, store; Abner Reed, saw-mill.
The history of the mills, still-houses and tanneries are here given.
The first mill in this region of country was in the Narrows. Abraham Sanford owned a tract of land which lay along the river and lies in both townships, Derry and Brown. In 1772 he was running a grist-mill on the place. The exact location has not been ascertained, as
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the mill was abandoned before 1800 and soon after a sickle-factory was erected and operated by Henry Long. The property is now owned by William Mann, Jr., Co., and is the site of their factories.
The property now owned by H. H. Gibboney, and on which his woolen-factory stands, was the site of a number of mills that have disappeared, of which the account is here given.
In 1791, John Fleming built a grist-mill forty by forty feet, two stories high (the lower story of stone, the upper of logs), in which two pair of mill-stones were placed. The water was conveyed to the mill in a head-race about fifteen rods longs, which led from the dam above. This was used as a grist-mill until 1839, when it was sold to Robert M. Milliken, who removed the old log building, and in its place built a larger mill, three stories high. He also built a substantial stone dam immediately above. This mill was used as a grist and merchant-mill until 1864, when H. H. Gibboney and Morrison became the purchasers and changed it into a woolen-factory. In 1867 John Wilson, of Reedsville, bought Morrison's interest and remained a partner until March, 1882. In that year the whole property passed to H. H. Gibboney, who is the present proprietor. This factory runs six hundred and thirty spindles and two sets of cards and six looms, and blankets, satinetts, flannels, and yarn are manufactured.
In 1805 John Fleming built a stone fulling-mill, a short distance west of the old log mill. It contains a carding-machine, spinning-jenny and from eighteen to twenty-four spindles.
In December, 1812, it was operated by Robert Wark, who was succeeded by Aaron Wark, November 5, 1813. Hugh Laird was the next owner, and John McClain was the last one to operate the mill, which closed in 1828.
John Fleming built a plaster-mill at the east end of the old log mill about 1827. It continued to be operated until 1839, at which time Milliken built the new mill. The plaster-mill was then taken down, and rebuilt on the other side of the stream, west of the mill and near the old fulling-mill. It was used as a plaster-mill at this place until 1864, when H. H. Gibboney and Morrison purchased the property, and the plaster-mill was abandoned.
Henry Taylor built a grist-mill and saw-mill on the West Branch of the Kishacoquillas Creek prior to 1790. It was used until 1823, when it was destroyed by fire. As soon as possible after the fire, the present Robert Taylor's mill was built. It is a frame house, and was completed ready for use in 1824. - Beck was the first miller who operated the new mill.
John Taylor, about 1813, built a tannery on his farm, which, in 1835, was operated also by a John Taylor. Farther up the creek, John Norris, in 1842, owned an axe-factory and a tilt-hammer. James, George and Jonas Spangler, soon after 1812, established a factory for the manufacture of gun-barrels, in the Narrows, and continued until 1816. Their shop was in the small stone building in which William Mann first began to make axes in the Narrows. Some time after George & Spangler ceased operations this building in which William Mann first began to make axes in the Narrows. Some time after George & Spangler ceased operations this building was converted into a chopping-mill, for the purpose of grinding rye and corn, which was used in the still-house which was put in operation on the lower floor of the large stone house in the Narrows, which is still standing, and is owned by James H. Mann. This still-house contained two copper stills. Adam Greer and Thomas McCulley were the proprietors of the stilling department. A Mr. Irvin was distiller some time, and after him Robert Cox was distiller for six months. During that time Adam Greer moved away from the upper part of the building to Brown's Mills. This still-house was operated about two years. While the distillery was in operation on the ground-floor, Adam Greer was conducting a hotel in the upper part of the house.
MANN'S AXE FACTORY. - William Mann, Jr., was born in Johnstown, Montgomery County, New York, in 1804, and removed to Bellefonte, in Centre County, Pa., in 1829, and there engaged in business with his brother H. Mann, and remained with him for five years. From that place he removed to Mauch Chunk, in Pennsylvania, and engaged in the business of manufacturing axes, but remained there only one year. From there he went to Freehold, in
640 JUNIATA AND SUSQUEHANNA VALLEYS IN PENNSYLVANIA.
New York, and engaged in the same business, but remained only for the short period of six months. He came from there to Mifflin County in 1835, and located in the Short Narrows, of Jack's Mountain, on Kishacoquillas Creek, in the townships of Brown and Derry, where these extensive works are now situated. Prior to the time when William Mann, Jr., came to the Narrows, a Mr. Spangler built a small stone shop at the Kishacoquillas Creek, and there for some time engaged in the manufacture of gun-barrels. That business was closed some years before William Mann, Jr., came there, and the shop was standing idle. In this small stone shop William Mann, Jr., began the manufacture of axes in Mifflin County in a very small way, making on an average but six axes per day. He did all his work with the assistance of a helper, and success attended his efforts and the business prospered. When he first began he had the property rented, but as the business prospered he became the owner of it. The demand for his axes continued to increase, his shop was enlarged, and afterward, at various times, new shops were built. William Mann, Jr., died in 1855. After his death the business was conducted by his two sons, James H. Mann and William Mann. The demand continued to increase, factories enlarged, and shipments were made to various parts of the world.
William Mann, the brother of James H. Mann, was killed by the explosion of the boiler of a steamboat on the Ohio River, near Shawneetown, Ill., the 17th day of May, 1876. Since that time the business has been conducted by James H. Mann, under the old firm-name of William Mann, Jr., & Co. These extensive works now manufacture an average of one thousand four hundred axes per day. They employ from two hundred to two hundred and fifty men, and their axes are sold and shipped not only to every State in the Union, but are sent to Australia, New Zealand, New South Wales, China, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Cape-town, in Africa, and all over Western Europe. The demand is steadily increasing, which is the result of fine mechanical skill, business ability and Juniata iron, - these combined are the elements of success. Every part of these works is systematic, - the cutting of the iron, the bending, heating, welding, tempering, finishing, grinding, polishing, marking, labeling, packing, shipping and other minute processes.
James Johnston, a son of the Rev. James Johnston, in 1833, built a clover-mill on the Middle Branch of the Kishacoquillas, which was continued until about 1842, when portable hullers were introduced and the mill was abandoned.
STILL-HOUSES. - John Fleming erected a log still-house west of his log mill about 1795-96. In 1821 a stone still-house was erected about fifty rods above, on the stream, which was used until about 1834.
Samuel Milliken, about 1800, built a stone still-house on the property now owned by William Henry, on the north side of the valley. It was abandoned about 1824.
About 1791 William Henry erected a log still-house near the bank of the West Branch of the Kishacoquillas Creek.
A surveying party, in 1794, were running the mountain line along the foot of Jack's Mountain and stopped at this still-house for whiskey. They became so much intoxicated that the work was abandoned for the time, and when resumed it was undertaken by others. The business was discontinued at this house in 1820.
Judge William Brown, before 1790, erected a stone still-house south of the mill, at what is now Reedsville, which was used until about 1825.
A stone still-house was built in Cooper's Gap by Joseph Kyle and Foster Milliken. Adam Greer was the distiller. It was abandoned many years ago.
John Cooper erected a stone still-house before 1800; it was abandoned for that purpose about 1815. The building was afterwards occupied as a tenant-house, weaver's shop and shoemaker's, and about 1840 it was used a justice's office.
A log still-house was built by Matthew Taylor, Sr., on his property, which was used for several years and abandoned about 1821.
EARLY SETTLER.* - William Brown, James
*The reader is referred to the assessment rolls of Armagh township for the early residents of what is now Brown township.
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Reed, Robert Taylor and others settled in the valley on warrants taken out in 1755.
Robert Taylor, the ancestor of the family in the township, took out his warrant dated February 4, 1755, and by the survey it contained seven hundred and fifty-seven acres. On the 26th of March, 1802, he warranted one hundred acres additional.
For an account of Henry Taylor's family, sec the sketch of Union township.
Among the early settlers in the township was Samuel Milliken, son James Milliken, who emigrated with his family from County Down, Ireland, in 1772, and located on the Conewago Creek, Dauphin County. He died about a month after his arrival, leaving a wife, one son and four daughters. Samuel, the son, the same year of his father's death, came to the valley, and three years later married Margaret Foster and bought a tract later known as the Bolton tract of Henry Drinker for twelve shillings per acre. He died in 1804, and at that time was in possession of over one thousand acres. His sons were James, Robert, Joseph, David and Foster. His daughters were Barbara and Jane. James and Joseph were merchants in Lewistown many years. Robert was engaged in milling and in the manufacture of woolen goods. Foster lived at Milroy and was one of the proprietors of Marion Furnace. He died in 1828.
Thomas Cox and wife, of Derry County, Ireland, emigrated to this country in 1800, and in 1802 came to the valley of the Kishacoquillas, and settled in what is now Brown township. He died May 15, 1850, aged eighty-four years. His wife, Janet, died January 14, 1853, aged eighty years. A son, Robert, is now living in the township, far advanced in life.
The following incidents show one phase of the troubles the early settlers were subject to:
CAPTURE OF THE WILSONS BY THE INDIANS. - During the time of the hostilities with the Indians there lived near Brown's Mills (now Reedsville), in Mifflin County, Pa., the family of James Wilson. One bright morning in the month of August he and his son John, a lad of twelve summers, started to the harvest-field (still known as the "Wilson Field," not far distant from the village now called Siglerville, in Armagh township, on the farm now owned by S. M. Brown), with a pair of horses and a sled, to haul and thresh buckwheat. The forenoon passed quickly by without anything to cause alarm on the part of the father or son. Their companions had gone to the farm-house to partake of dinner, leaving Mr. Wilson and his son to eat their lunch in the field. John had refilled the stone jug with water and seated himself by his father's side to eat their simple meal, when, to their surprise, a party of Indians rushed upon them from the adjoining woods; resistance was useless, and they were made captives. The trail which the Indians took was northward, across the Seven Mountains. The Indians compelled the boy to carry the jug of water with him. As they were climbing the Frst Mountain the boy became weary of his load, and complained to his father. His father told him to fall on a rock and break it, which John did successfully shortly afterward, and then pretended he was very sorry, and immediately began to pick up the broken pieces, when the Indian in charge of him dashed them out of his hands. The trip was without further incident, and after many days of wary marching through the forest they at length reached the Indian village, which was near the present site of the city of Buffalo. The boy was traded to an English officer from Canada for a keg of whiskey, and he was used as a servant to the Englishman.
After a council was held by the Indians, it was decided that Mr. Wilson should run the gauntlet and become one of their own people. Two rows of Indians were formed which was parallel to each other, and were so arranged as to leave a narrow passage between them. Along this narrow way Mr. Wilson was compelled to run. The Indians in both lines had each a club or weapon of some kind in their hands with which to strike him. He was then ordered to run, and made a bold dash through between the lines without being much hurt. This did not entirely satisfy the Indians, and they tied an old squaw to him an compelled him to run through the second time; he ran with all the strength he had, dragging the squaw after him, and although he was badly
642 JUNIATA AND SUSQUEHANNA VALLEYS IN PENNSYLVANIA.
hurt, the squaw fared worse than he. He was now claimed by the Indians to be one of them. He remained with them some length of time, and learned to speak their language. In the treaty which was held some time afterward he was returned, and as they still claimed him as belonging to them, the Indians gave him a tract of land, which was located where a part of the city of Buffalo now stands. Mr. Wilson was so glad to be free, and to have the privilege of returning home, that he never afterward laid any claim to the property given to him by the Indians. He came home and lived to be an aged man.
Some time before Mr. Wilson was released his son had escaped from Canada, having been away about one year. On his way home he walked the greater part of the way.*
THE CENTRE CHURCH was erected in 1830, on the line between Union and Brown townships, by the United Presbyterian and the East Kishacoquillas Presbyterian Church came into entire control. The building has been recently repaired and is used a preaching-place for the people of the neighborhood.
MOUNTAIN CHAPEL. - On the 24th day of November, 1851, James Bailey, of Brown township, had thirty and eight- tenths perches of land surveyed from his property for the use of the Methodist Episcopal congregation, as a lot upon which to erect a church. This lot is situated at the junction of the road to Greenwood Furnace with the Back Mountain road. The house is frame, is about thirty by fort feet, with planed weather-boarding and is painted white. The building was put up in a very plain, substantial and cheap manner, and was finished in 1852. William R. Mills was the preacher on the circuit at the time the church was built. The ministers who preached at this church were the same as those who preached at Milroy. This church is called the "Mountain Chapel," and is still owned by the Methodist Episcopal Church.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE. - The first to reside in the limits of the township was Richard Hope, who received his appointment under Governor Snyder, and served until 1840.
James Brisbin was also appointed by the Governor and served several years. He was succeeded by Alexander Thompson about 1835, who served a term of five years. He was a shoemaker, and his office was in his shop. It is said of him that when a case was being tried before him, that he continued at work upon his bench until the testimony was closed, when he took a seat upon a high stool and gave his opinion and judgment. A change in the constitution in 1839 made the office elective.
The following have been elected:
William B. Johnson, 1840.
Joseph A. Taylor, 1840, '45.
William McKinney, 1845, '50, '55, '60.
James Davis, 1850 (did not serve).
Jacob Kohler, 1866.
John M. Shadle, 1868.
Robert Sterrett, 1869, '74.
David Mitchell, 1869.
John T. Roop, 1876.
John M. Bell, 1877 (did not serve).
J. E. McKinley, 1881.
John Wilson, 1882.
KISHACOQUILLAS SEMINARY. - On the 9th of October, 1847, the Rev. J. W. Elliott opened a select school in the Centre Church. In continued until the organization and charter of the Kishacoquillas Seminary, in 1854. Of corporators of the institution were Dr. Joseph Henderson, Colonel William Cummins, John Alexander, James Alexander, Benjamin Garber, Henry P. Taylor and the Rev. Mr. Easton. A brick building was erected by Mrs. Elizabeth Alexander on the road from Reedsville to Belleville, at a cost of five thousand three hundred dollars, and donated to the seminary. The school was conducted for many years, and was sold to Mr. Garner, who now occupies it for a dwelling and store. The following persons have served as principals: Professor Nelson, of Salem, N. Y., Professor John S. Easton, Hugh Alexander,
*The foregoing facts were furnished by Mrs. D. H. McAuley, a daughter of Joseph Forrest of Huntingdon County, who was a nephew of John Wilson who had often heard his uncle tell the story.
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Professor Green, Professor Z. Sharp, Professor Martin Mohler and John W. Bell.
It is said that in the year 1752 William Brown and James Reed made an exploring tour through the valley of Kishacoquillas, and in their search for lands, Brown finally settled upon the present site of Reedsville, where he lived until his death. In 1781 he erected a grist-mill and saw-mill, from which time until the laying out of Reedsville, about 1838, the place was known as Brown's Mills. Upon the erection of Mifflin County, in 1789, he became the presiding justice of the courts and in 1791 an associate justice.
He erected Freedom Forge in 1795 and conducted it until about 1812, when it was sold to Miller, Martin & Co. He died September 14, 1825, and his wife in May, 1815. Of his sons were John and William; the former was extensively engaged in milling, iron and other industries. He was a member of the Legislature and of Congress, and later in life moved to North Carolina, where he died October 12, 1845, aged seventy-three years. William, also a son, inherited the estate at Brown's Mills, became engaged in the management of Freedom Forge until 1833, and died September 25, 1847.
A daughter of Judge William Brown became the wife of John Norris, who came to near Poketytown (now Lewistown) in 1787, in the employ of Andrew Gregg. He was one of the trustees appointed to lay out the county-seat of Mifflin County and was one of the contractors for erecting the court-house in the public square in 1796. He held many important public offices in the early history of the county, engaged in business in Baltimore several years, and upon the formation of the Centre Bank, at Bellefonte, became its cashier. On the 23d of March, 1827, he purchased of William Brown, his brother-in-law, the Brown's Mills tract, embracing seven hundred and thirty-three acres of land, on which was a large stone merchant-mill, saw-mill, plaster-mill, stone store-house, hotel and mansion-house. This property he held until his death, March 5, 1841, aged seventy years. The property passed to a Mr. Parker, of New Jersey, who sold the mill property to George Strunk, who operated the mill until his death, after which his heirs sold the mills to Spanogle & Yeager, who are the present owners.
Miss Sally Brown, another daughter of Judge Brown, married, in the year 1802, William P. Maclay, son of Samuel Maclay. She died in 1810, leaving three sons, - Dr. Samuel Maclay, of Milroy, William P. and Charles J. Another daughter of Judge Brown became the wife of General James Potter, of Bellefonte, son of James Potter, the early pioneer.
The following incident has been often told, but is of interest in the connection: Logan lived in the valley in 1767-68; he was very expert at killing deer and dressing the skins, and one day, when William Brown's little daughter was just beginning to walk, her mother was heard by Logan to say she wished she could get a pair of shoes for the little one. Logan said nothing, but soon after asked Mrs. Brown to let the child go home with him to his cabin and visit him. The mother, though really unwilling, concealed her reluctance and gave an apparently cheerful assent. The child went and remained all day. Her mother began to be very nervous at sunset, but soon afterwards Logan appeared with the little girl, who very proudly showed her little feet encased in a new pair of moccasins, which the chief had made for her.
Logan was a favorite among the whites and remained here till 1771, when he moved to the Ohio (game being scarce here) and settled at Yellow Creek, thirty miles above Wheeling, where a considerable settlement was made by his followers, and where he was visited by Heckewelder in 1772. His family was murdered in 1774.
At the time Reedsville was surveyed and laid out, in 1838, there were about twenty buildings in the place. A tavern had been kept many years, and in that year the large brick hotel building was erected which is not owned by Ephraim Morrison, and is still used as a hotel. In 1842 Abner Reed was keeping tavern, and in March, 1848, William Brothers applied to the court for a license to keep a public-house at the place. About 1840 John Albright erected a tannery, conducted it until 1846, and leased it
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for a term of five years to John Zook and Andrew Summers. At the expiration of half the time of their lease they leased the remainder of the time to John Wilson, who, on the expiration, bought the property of John Albright, and continued the tannery until 1861, when the business was abandoned. Reedsville at present contains ninety-five dwellings and five hundred and eighteen inhabitants, a Methodist Church, two dry-goods stores, drug- store, grocery and other business places, hotel and post-office.
THE METHODIST CHURCH IN REEDSVILLE. - The Methodist Church in Reedsville was built in 1875 and 1876, and was dedicated in February, 1876, during the time the Rev. Luther F. Smith was preacher on the Milroy Circuit. It is a plain, one-story frame or plank house. The house is thirty-five by forty-two feet and the estimated cost is one thousand and fifty dollars.
The names of the preachers who have filled appointments at this church are:
1875-76, Milton R. Foster, presiding elder. 1875, Luther F. Smith; 1876, Luther F. Smith.
1877-78, Thompson Mitchell, presiding elder. 1877, W. A. McKee; 1878, J. M. Johnston; 1879, J. M. Johnston; 1880, James Bell.
1881-84, Richard Hinkle, presiding elder. 1881, J. Gulden; 1882, J. Gulden; 1883, J. R. King; 1884, J. R. King.
1885, Jacob S. McMurry, presiding elder. 1885, Samuel Meminger.
Crawford Kyle is a grandson of John Kyle, who emigrated from the town of Lorrademore, in the south of Ireland, to America, and came direct to the State of Pennsylvania, reaching the Kishacoquillas Valley on horse-back, accompanied by his wife and child. He first built a cabin and afterward located about four hundred acres of land in Brown township,
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which was divided between his two sons. He married a Miss Crawford, whose children were Margaret (Mrs. Hamilton Kyle), Crawford, who settled in Brown township, and Joseph, who located on a tract of land east of his brother. The latter was born in 1781 on the homestead property, and spent his life as a farmer, having married Mary, daughter of John Brisbin, of Centre County. The children of this marriage are Samuel, born in 1812, deceased; and John, 1813, deceased. Judge Kyle married, a second time, Jennett McFarlane, of Armagh township, whose children are Mary (Mrs. John Thompson), James (now living in Brown township), Crawford, Elizabeth R. (Mrs. George McDowell), Margaret (Mrs. William McFarlane) Priscilla (Mrs. Henry Taylor), Joseph (now residing on the homestead farm, married to Mary E. Davis) and Charles (of Clinton County, married to Ann Campbell). Judge Kyle, though devoted to the healthful pursuits of the farmer, evinced a taste for public life, and a comprehensive mind and sound judgment, which made his influence felt as a public official. He served in the Legislature of his State and was elected associate judge of Mifflin County, besides holding many other township and county offices. He was for many years an elder in the East Kishacoquillas Presbyterian Church, and filled various offices requiring not only ability, but scrupulous integrity. His son Crawford was born February 12, 1821, on the homestead now owned by Joseph Kyle, where his youth was passed in school and in the various departments of labor connected with the farm and its cultivation. On the death of his father he became, by inheritance, the possessor of about two hundred and thirty acres of land in Brown township, on which he was since resided, and upon which, in 1845, he erected a substantial residence. He was, in 1844, married to Miss Sarah, daughter of James Brisbin, whose living children are Elizabeth (Mrs. Wilson), McNitt, and McFarlane. Mrs. Kyle died in 1858, and Mr. Kyle was again married in 1859, to Miss Mary E., daughter of John Kyle. Their children are Sallie and Junie. Mr. Kyle adheres, as did his father, to the principles of the Democracy. He is, however, not ambitious for office nor active in politics. Both he and his wife are members of the East Kishacoquillas Presbyterian Church.
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