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This account of Yeagertown history was written by Mrs. Mabel Gibboney. Her recollections were written down by her. The memories are brief but give an insight to the beginnings of Yeagertown. The date of this writing is unknown.
It has just been 244 years since the arrival of the first Yeagers in the Province of Pennsylvania. They came from the Valley of the Rhine in Germany. Andreas (Andrew) Yeager settled in Dauphin County. Andrew’s son John was the father of John Jacob Yeager the founder of Yeagertown. He fought in the War of 1812 and in 1830 secured from the Patent Office in Washington a patent for a “mold board” of a plow which has been universally used throughout the US. The name Yeager was first spelled Jager, Jeager, Yager, and now is spelled Yeager and means mighty hunter. The new settlers built a grist mill and saw mill on the banks of the Kishacoquillas Creek.
The Holy Communion Lutheran Church
We just had one church in the town in it’s early days. Wm Mann donated a plot of ground for the erection of a church building and a school house. Daniel Albright whose farm adjoined that of Wm Mann donated a plot comparable in size to that offered by Mr. Mann, as a possible building site.
This plot was considered to be better suited for the site of a church so plans were drawn up to build a building of native stone 40 ft wide and 56 ft long and 16 ft high. It always made us think of the song “ There’s a Church in the Valley by the Wildwood”.
People came from Reedsville, also Ferguson Valley, Vira, Newtown (which is now part of Burnham) and Dry Valley. It is told that the bell in this old church was so clear and resonant that you could actually hear it in all of these places. The church was built in 1852.
The Methodists up until the time they built their church on Mann Avenue always walked over the creek and down through what was called “The Little Woods” and the “Big Woods” to Logan (Burnham) to the Methodist Church to worship. The Catholics in our little village either walked or rode in a horse drawn bus to Lewistown to worship.
The plot of ground that Mr. Mann had donated, which was part of his farm, later became the site of our present elementary school. It started with one large room, later what was called the Second school was added, then later a room was added that was known as the Big School. As the village grew so did the need for another room. Then what they called the Third room was added. For many years the second story of the Band Hall , which is now Mr. Wagner’s place of business was utilized as a school room. There were stairs out on the front of the building for the boys and girls to get to their school room. Before these rooms were built the boys and girls from the village as for up as Rosemont had to walk out into Ferguson Valley to a little school house which is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel McNitt. Miss Annie Yeager was the teacher and she taught in our county for 50 years.
Let’s take a peek into one of these old fashioned school rooms. Well, they could boast of a blackboard, a fat bellied stove with shields around it, a chart and maps on the wall, a wooden water pail which eventually graduated into a pressed paper bucket and one long handled dipper out of which everyone drank.
Where were the germs in those days? Where did they get their drinking water? Just down over the bank from Mr. Lem Snook’s house was a spring along the banks of the creek. That was one source of the water supply, another was a well with a pump to it, and it was about half way up Brown Row as it was then called. No grades in the schools then no compulsory school law. Every one who wished to go to school had to buy their own slates, tablets, pencils, and books. Later the Little and Big School as they were called were torn down and the present front of the Elementary building was built and then an addition was built at the back of the building and I think you know that some years later we built Derry Township High School. You think our buildings were crowded now but I heard of Eighth Grade having 92 pupils in one room.
We had one Grocery Store owned by Mrs. E.P. Mann, whose home is our present day Fire House, and it also contained the Post Office. Granny Stewart, a sweet little old lady, had a small confectionary store in one of the little old houses that was torn down to make way for Wagner’s place of business. Later Mr. E.V. Johnson built a house and store room which is now Mr. and Mrs. Getz’s home.
Some people had rigs as they called them in those days which consisted of a horse and buggy, a spring wagon and horse, or a carriage and horse, or a phaeton and horse. To travel to Lewistown you rode on the Lewistown and Milroy Train which made three tips a day, except Saturday when they made a night trip, also Mrs. James McDonald who used to live in a little house that was torn down to make way for Dr, Jim Smiley to build a house which is now the Methodist parsonage; used to drive a bus on Sat. evening to Lewistown so that people could go to a show in the Masonic Hall (which was then known as the Opera House) although it never had an opera in it; also to do their shopping. The old Milroy railroad is said to be built on an old Indian Trail that followed Kishacoquillas Creek and Honey Creek. Any person driving a vehicle of any kind had to pay a toll before they entered Reedsville or Lewistown. Toll gates are a thing of the past as are many little red schools houses of one room and covered bridges.
Years ago there few industries that we could boast of, the Mann Axe Works were situated up above the bridge in the Narrows. Here they made the famous Red Warrior Axe and later they added the making of hoes. The Red Warrior Axe was famous all over the world. The Axes were forged and tempered in this building but down right across the road from the Meadowfield Playground there was another shop which was known as the Grinding Shop where they ground and polished the axes. This was very detrimental to health of the men who worked there as their lungs became filled with the grit and dust from the grinding stones and most of those men died from Grinder’s Consumption which is like the disease we call silicosis today. Mr. James Mann who was the owner of the Axe works, until the Trusts came into existence and inveigled him into the Trusts and who eventually succeeded in getting nearly all his property from which he had inherited from his father. Wm Mann had his residence upon the hill at the front of Jack’s Mountain and which is now owned and occupied by Mr. Aurand who owns a Sport’s Goods Store in Lewistown. Rosemont was occupied by Mr. Frank Mann and family. The “Brown Row” as it used to be known was built to house the employees of the Axe Factory. You’ve often heard it said that “America is the Melting Pot of Nations”. Well this could be truly said of our village at that time as we had English, Germans, Welsh, French, French Canadians, and Polish people all living here and being employed at these works.
Remember there were no Water Companies in those days. There were two pumps in Brown Row and a Spring below the Large Stone House at the upper end of town and all water for cooking and drinking purposes had to be carried. Water for laundry purposes came from a cistern or rain barrel. No electric lights either, lamps had to be cleaned each morning and filled with kerosene.
The other industry was the Logan Iron and Steel Works, also the Standard Steel Works. Most of the people employed at those plants lived from the Lutheran Church down and out in Burnham (which was called Logan then). Most of them owned their own homes although the Logan Iron and Steel Co. owned 2 rows of houses that you would have thought were the brothers and sisters to Brown Row. They were known as Upper and Lower Bob Town, also they had a row known as Walnut Row. Burnham was first known as ”The Old Forge”, then Logan and then Burnham.
Sandwiched in between these two industries a homey little shop where people wnt to have their carpets woven. The shop was run by Mr. Newman. It was the front room of the house Mr. Lewis Musser now lives in it. People used their old clothing and made carpet rags out of them; that is they tore them in strips, sewed them together, wound them in balls and then took them to Mr. Newman who had bright carpet yarn and filler and on his hand loom he wove them a very pretty carpet. He after a while built a shop to carry on his work which later was occupied by Dr. Smiley for an office and is now being used as a barber shop by Mr. Earl Swanger. The home of Mrs. Amelia Swanger was the home of Mr. George Buffington who at one time was the Sherriff of Mifflin County and who was also related to the Yeager Family. A very attractive old stone house used to stand where our Lutheran Parsonage now stands. Our Lutheran Parsonage used to be the house that Mr. Carmen Gallucci lives in. Mann Ave., Locke Ave., Clover Ave., Green Ave. were all part of the Mann Farm. The first house built on Mann Ave., was built by Mr. Oscar Swyers and is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Wm Loudenslager the 2nd one built was built by James Gibboney and is now occupied by his granddaughter Mrs. Reeder & Family. What is now known as Logan Blvd. was built by Mr. Joseph Kelley and Dr. Rothrock of Reedsville and was known as Kelley Row. What is known as “The Hershey” was built for a bakery by Mr. Burkett, was later a store run by Mr. John Moore, then Mr. John Young, then Mr. Allan Hess, and then Mr. Joe Taub, and now is the Hershey. The old stone house that was torn down last year was a “Wayside Inn”. The Old Stage Coach used it as a stopping place between Bellefonte and Lewistown. A large stone house stood at the lower part of town. It was the farm house on the Milliken Farm. Across the road was the Spring and Spring House. Many people in the lower end of toen had to carry their drinking water from that spring or from the pump that was in the front yard of Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Readdy.
Well I have just one question to ask, “Would you rather lived then or now?”
These are the memories of Mrs. Mabel Gibboney and have been typed as she wrote them. The only thing I did is when she first mentions Logan I put (Burnham). Some references are ambiguous but it gives some insight into the village we call Yeagertown. I have no idea when this was written but the reference to the tearing down of “The Wayside Inn” leads me to believe it was in the late fifties because I remember the building then Don Snyder built his appliance store. If you have questions or clarification I will do my best to answer them.
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