HOME | BACK
Buffalo Township, named after the massive
animal which once roamed its hills as they later did the plains of the great
West, was the sixth township to be formed of territory which now comprises Perry
County, being made a township in 1799, the same year that George Washington, the
first president of the United States, breathed his last. This comparison
is made here to show the fact that the history of the township is almost as old
as that of the country itself.
Buffalo was formed from Greenwood and originally included all of Howe and Watts
Townships. Upon petition of many inhabitants of Greenwood Township who
resided south of Buffalo Hill, to the Cumberland County courts, in October,
1799, setting forth that "the petitioners were subjected to many and great
inconveniences, occasioned by the largeness and irregular shape of the said
township of Greenwood, which comprehended all the country between the Juniata
and Susquehanna Rivers, as far as twenty miles up each river; that the said
tract of country was nearly equally divided by the said Buffalo Hill, which
begins at the Juniata, about one mile below Wildcat Run, and continues to the
Susquehanna, below the house of David Derickson, and praying the court that that
part of said township of Greenwood, contained between the rivers Juniata and
Susquehanna and lying south of Buffalo Hill, may be erected into a new
The order of the court granted the prayer of the petitioners forthwith and
adjudged the same thereafter to be two townships, the division line to be
Buffalo Hill, and the new township to be known as Buffalo Township. Its
size was diminished by the creation of Watts Township, in 1849, and by that of
Oliver Township, in 1837, when the present territory comprising Howe Township
was made a part of Oliver.
Buffalo Township as at present constituted is bounded on the north by Greenwood
and Liverpool Townships, on the east by the Susquehanna River, on the south by
Watts Township, and on the west by a small stretch of the Juniata River and by
Howe Township. It is composed of two valleys, Buck's and Hunter's, the
former being two miles in width, and the latter being virtually a cove, tapering
from considerable breadth at the east to almost a point at the west. The
mountain separating the two valleys is known as Berry's Mountain.
They first settlers of that part of the township comprised in Buck's Valley were
Reuben Earl, John Law, George Albright, Samuel Rankin and Martin Waln, who took
up lands along the Susquehanna River. In the body of the valley were Jacob
Buck, Henry Alspach and Nicholas Liddick. These eight settlers took up
their lands probably before 1772, as they were surveyed June 1, 1772. The
Henry Alspach place is still in the hands of a descendant, Joseph Deckard.
George Albright located on the farm long owned by John Bair, while president of
the People's Bank of Newport (now the First National), and now in possession of
Harry Shutt. Other early settlers locating in the same vicinity were John
Rutherford, who warranted 320 acres in January, 1768, southwest of Albright;
John Purviance, to the south; west of this Andrew Berryhill, 165 acres in May,
1774; adjoining Berryhill, Joseph Swift had 296 acres warranted at the same
time; adjoining this place on the east and next to Berry's Mountain Zachariah
Spangler and M. Copp had tracts of 174 acres; adjoining them on the east was
George Fetterman's claim, which also adjoined George Albright's place.
George Albright, here spoken of, was a Revolutionary patriot, whose remains lie
buried in the valley which he helped grasp from the primeval forest. See
the chapter 'Perry County in the Revolutionary War.'
John Taylor warranted 208 acres of land in August, 1789, located at a place
locally known as 'Girty's Notch,' along the Susquehanna River at the township's
southern boundary. There is a cave there, in the end of the mountain,
where it juts out to the edge of the river and where tradition would have Simon
Girty, the younger, hide while acting in the capacity of a spy for the Wyandotte
Indians. Tradition in this case, however, is most probably only tradition,
as the record of Girty in the vicinity of Ohio is well established. The
author of this volume has seen fit to delve rather deeply into the career of
this renegade, the result appearing earlier in the book, under the title, 'Simon
Girty, the Renegade.'
In October, 1776, Samuel Rankin took up 200 acres of land, which stretched over
a mile along the Susquehanna River and included the site of the present village
of Montgomery's Ferry, which was a post office for many years until 1919, when
it was finally discontinued, the business having practically all been diverted
to the rural delivery service. North of the Rankin tract was Martin Waln's
thirty acres, which extended to the base of Berry's Mountain, and which was
warranted in May, 1772, but passed to Reuben Hains by survey two years later.
The George Barner farm at Mt. Patrick was known as the 'Garden Tract,' and was
early owned by a man named Brubaker. Later it was in possession of Peter
Ritner, a brother of Governor Ritner. It was afterwards sold at sheriff's
sale to the Lyken's Valley Coal Company, who built a small railroad from the
river shore to the canal basin, by which they transferred their coal from river
flats to canal boats. George Blattenberger, who later became an associate
judge of the county, owned it later for many years, having purchased it in 1841.
A special act of the Pennsylvania Legislature dated March 7, 1856, provided
'that a certain island lying in the Susquehanna River, in Upper Paxton Township,
Dauphin County, and known by the name of Crow's Island, be and the same is
hereby declared to be attached to, and thereafter become a part of Perry
County.' Michael Crow, a well-to-do citizen, was an early citizen in
Hunter's Valley, owning a tract of over 300 acres.
When the new county of Perry came into existence, in 1820, the assessment of the
township of Buffalo was as follows, Watts and Howe Townships still being part of
The Rankin tract, where Montgomery's Ferry is
located, passed to Joseph Clark in December, 1776. His daughter married
John Black, of Juniata Township, who subsequently acquired title, and in
November, 1827, sold it (then 282 acres) for $4,822, to William Montgomery,
whose name the village and community bears, although the ferry has been out of
existence for generations. On the Dauphin County side this ferry was known
as Morehead's, as the landing was made on lands belonging to a family of that
name. Z. T. Shuler has long kept a general store at Montgomery's Ferry.
The first schoolhouse in Buffalo Township was a log one, built for that purpose
in 1808, and located on the Richard Baird place, its location being at the forks
of the rad, near the Richard Callin residence. Mrs. William Kumler, born
in 1842 (then Mary Buck), who is still living, remembers when this building
still stood and was in use as a schoolhouse, she having attended there, when it
was again used for a few terms after Centre schoolhouse burned. She
describes it as being weatherboarded, but never plastered. Teachers at
this school were George Baird, Benjamin Elliot, Mary McMullen and James
Denniston, the latter being the last one. The building was abandoned for
school purposes after 1824. In that year (1824) the first Sunday school in
Buck's Valley, and the first one in the county east of the Juniata of which
there is record, was organized. It was also one of the first few in the
In 1824, a log schoolhouse was built near where Buck's Church now stands.
It was also used as a church. Teachers at this school were Joseph Foster,
Ann McGinnes, Francis Laird, David Mitchell and Samuel Stephens. Another
early schoolhouse was at Montgomery's Ferry.
A schoolhouse known as Centre early stood near where the present Centre
schoolhouse stands, being built in 1850. It was subsequently moved about a
mile east on lands of Jacob Bucke. It was used for school purposes until
1857, when it burned down. The Baird schoolhouse was then used for five or
six terms, when another was built at the present site. It in turn
succeeded by the present building in 1879. Two other noted teachers of an
early period were John C. McGinnes,Sr., and John Stephens, Sr.
The oldest schoolhouse in Hunter's Valley was erected on lands of Joseph Hunter
(later the Abram Crow place). It was a roughly built log house covered
with slab roof. It accommodated the children of all the families--probably
a dozen--within a radius of two or three miles.
When the question of accepting or rejecting the free school act of 1834 came up
at a public meeting on December 6, 1834, forty-six voted to reject it and one
voted for it. On November 6, 1835, a meeting to examine teachers was held
at Patterson's tavern (then Juniata Falls post office). Four directors,
Joseph Foster, George Baird, George Arnold, and William Howe, were
present. In 1840 the schools were not in session, the funds being used for
the erection of schoolbuildings.
It is with considerable pride that it is here recorded that the first free
school in Pennsylvania, under the free school act, was opened in Buffalo
Township, but it was in the part which is now Watts Township. In the
chapter on "The Public Schools," elsewhere in this book, it will be
noted that the late Chief Justice Daniel Gantt, of the State of Nebraska, is
authority for that statement. He was the teacher and the school was
located "at Thompson's Crossroads," near the present farm buildings of
Allen R. Thompson.
When the assessment of 1820 was made there were four ferries assessed within the
limits of Buffalo Township, which then included Watts and Howe. They were
those of Michael Krouse (Crow), William Montgomery, Jacob Baughman and Thomas
Hulings. Coming down the river they were, in order, Crow's Ferry,
Montgomery's Ferry, New Buffalo and that at the Junction.
According to Claypole's Geology the ridge through central Buck's Valley,
extending almost to Montgomery's Ferry, is but an extension of Middle Ridge, of
A gristmill of the burr type was erected near the Juniata River by James Barkey.
It later descended to a mill of the chopping type, and was long owned by Mrs.
Jacob Seiders, still being in possession of her heirs.
Buck's Valley was so named for the first settler by that name, Jacob Buck, the
head of the clan of that name. Hunter's Valley takes its name from the
many persons of that name that resided there. In the early days when
Scotch-Irish settled there, with attendant Presbyterianism, there dwelt there at
least four James Hunters, who were thus distinguished: One who had a
defect in his speech, wherein he repeated the letter "C" frequently,
was known as "C Jimmie"; then there was "Oxen Jimmie",
"Long Jimmie", and "Short Jimmie".
John Bair, later president of the People's Bank of Newport, when a young man
built a hotel at Girty's Notch, where he proposed to entertain raftsmen and
lumberman. He conducted it for eight years.
Just when the Montgomery's Ferry Hotel was built is not known, but the date
sometimes given, 1817, is evidently wrong, as it was built by William
Montgomery, and he did not purchase the lands, as previously stated in this
chapter, until 1827. He built the hotel and conducted it, as well as
operated the ferry, but sold the hostelry and a considerable area of land to
John A. Hilbish, in 1845. On his death, in 1872, the heirs, John A.,
Zachary T. and Sarah C., the latter the wife of Prof. William Moyer, of
Freeburg, divided the property, the hotel going to the latter. It was kept
by various proprietors, some of whose morals had a wide range, until 1913, when
Elmer E. Stephens purchased the building, and may it ever be said to his credit,
refused to lease it for the sale of liquor, although to do so would have meant
considerable financial gain. Mr. Stephens also had previously purchased
the other acreage from the other two Hilbish heirs. He and his family have
since resided in the old road house and have conducted it as a public house,
save that liquor has never been sold.
The village of Mt. Patrick, important in boating days, has dwindled to a mere
shadow of its former self. In the old boating days David Deckard had
erected a store and warehouse there, about 1848, and which he conducted until
about 1910. He always employed a number of clerks, as there the boatmen
replenished their needs while their boats were being passed through the canal
locks. He dealt largely in grain, which they used in large
quantities. From them he got his goods from the city for the trade of the
countryside. The mill there, which is fully described in our chapter
relating to Old Landmarks, Mills, etc., did a big business from much of the
territory east of the Juniata, and there a blacksmith plied his trade with few
idle moments. Mr. Deckard had erected there for his residence a fine home,
which in 1913 was rented by Samuel F. Seal, who has conducted a road house there
since, known as the "Mountain Springs Hotel." Mt. Patrick has
had no licensed hotel since 1848.
Dr. Joseph Foster was located in Buffalo Township in 1834, but records fail to
tell where and when he began practice, or the time of its termination.
According to the report of the mercantile appraiser the other business places of
the township are as follows:
A. T. Shuler, general store at Montgomery's Ferry, since 1883. Located in
the store-stand built by John H. Noviock in 1865, and where he kept until
1873. Mr. Shuler was postmaster there from 1883 to 1920, when the office
H. C. Zaring, near Liverpool, groceries.
J. W. Knuth, Moutain Hall Park, 1910.
Centre Lutheran Church. Rev. D. H.
Focht, in his "Churches
Between the Mountains," says that "some of the earliest settlers of
this beautiful and fertile valley were Lutherans." Prior to 1833 Rev.
John W. Heim preached an occasional sermon to those at the eastern end of the
valley. In 1833, Rev. C. G. Erlenmeyer took charge of the Liverpool
Circuit, and until 1842 preached sometimes at Buck's Schoolhouse. In 1842,
Rev. Andrew Berg, in connection with Petersburg (Duncannon), Liverpool and other
places, preached at Buck's schoolhouse regularly. On June 24, 1843, he
confirmed a class of twelve persons there. Six months later he resigned
and the membership had no preached word from their own church in many
years. They naturally drifted to other denominations. Then Rev.
William Weaver, from 1847 to 1851, preached occasionally at different places in
the valley. Then, until 1859, they were again left without services, which
had on all occasions been held in schoolhouses. Other Lutheran families
had located in the western part of the valley, and Rev. D. H. Focht, of the
Bloomfield charge, began visiting the valley. On May 7, 1859, Lewis Acker
and John Gunderman, on behalf of those interested, met the other church councils
at New Bloomfield and asked to be made a part of that charge. On June 5,
1859, Rev. Focht organized the congregation after his sermon in Huggins'
schoolhouse, with twenty-one members. The officers elected were John
Moretz, elder; Lewis Acker and Jacob Harris, deacons. Services were then
held every three weeks at Huggins' schoolhouse, and occasionally at Patteron's
(now the Lewis Steckley place). It required an occasional sermon in the
German language. The meeting to consider building a church was held at the
home of George W. Huggins, March 26, 1860. At that meeting were Lewis
Acker, John Bowers, Adam Hetrick, George W. Huggins, Jacob E. Zeigler, Jacob
Harris, Philip Peters, John Gunderman, Peter K. Lehr (Lahr), and Wm. H. Mowry.
It was decided to locate it near the Buffalo-Howe Township line, and to call in
Centre Lutheran Church. It was built on the corner of Mr. Harris' field
(now B. B. M. Bair's), adjoining the private road, and the farm of John Potter,
during 1860. The trustees were John Moretz, Lewis Acker and Jacob
Harris. The contract was let to Philip Peters, for $550. It was
dedicated October 21, 1860. The Bloomfield charge having been large, this
church was transferred to the Millerstown charge in November, 1861. As
that charge at best was a weak one, it later passed to the Newport charge, but,
about 1880 to 1885, with the older members passing away, with removals and the
more spirited United Brethren meetings close by, regular services were no longer
held. A decade later an attempt to revive it was discontinued after a
Centre Union Church. Prior to the building of this church the
members of the Evangelical faith held services in Huggins' schoolhouse nearby,
later holding them in the church. During almost half a century, however,
the United Brethren denomination is the only one that has held services
there. Among the Evangelical ministers who served the charge, were Rev.
Harris, Rev. Young, Rev. Graham and Rev. S. W. Seibert. The U. B. pastors
have been the same as those of the Liverpool church, which may be found in the
chapter relating to that borough. The church was built in 1860, the trustees and
building committee being John Bretz, John Hain, and John Potter, to whom Geo. W.
Bretz deeded the ground, for $25. Jacob Bretz was the builder. It is
named Centre Union Church in the deed. It was destroyed by a probable
incendiary fire on the night of February 21, 1902, and rebuilt in 1913. It
was dedicated February 22, 1914. There was a certain something in the
outline and construction of this old church which lingers through the years in
the memory of those who were boys and girls in the community and attended
there. A lady in a far western city, who was one of them, aptly put it
thus: "If I could put on paper the picture I carry in my memory, I
could give you a perfect reproduction in every detail; even to the wasps' nests,
built along under the window frames, and the curly-cue cornice that adorned the
deep roof's edge."
The rebuilding of the church, after a period of eleven years had elapsed since
it burned, came about largely through the efforts of Mrs. Alice (Hain) Callin,
whose people of several generations lie sleeping in that little churchyard, and
who with a subscription paper raised practically all the money besides that
received for the insurance on the old church, and that raised at its
dedication. The trustees at the time of its building were Ruben Seiders,
Ed. Deckard and G. B. M. Bair, who were also the building committee.
Buck's Union Church. The inhabitants of Buck's Valley, Buffalo
Township, and present Watts Township, worshiped early in a primitive church
situated on the top of Half-Falls Mountain, which runs parallel between the two
communities. Tradition says it burned down in 1800. The log
schoolhouse that once stood at the corner of the graveyard at Buck's Church, was
later used by those who resided in Buck's Valley. In it Rev. William Behel,
of the United Brethren denomination, held a protracted meeting in 1843.
Largely through the results of that meeting was the building of Buck's Church,
in 1848, the late Jacob Buck being one of the trustees and a member of the
building committee. One result of this revival was the conversion of
Isaiah Potter, the most able theologian the community produced, who later was
one of the organizers of the Allegheny Conference of the U. B. Church. One
January 7, 1848, the lands connected with the church were conveyed to Philip
Deckard, Jacob Buck, John Potter and John Bair. The church was rebuilt in
1892, the trustees being J. R. Buck, Wm. Kumler, Josiah Bair and James B.
Stephens. William Kumler, James B. Stephens, Isaiah E. Stephens, Lawrence
L. Kumler and J. Wesley Bair, are named as incorporators of the cemetery.
The Evangelical denomination used it for a time in the earlier years, but for
almost half a century it has been used exclusively by the United Brethren, being
a part of the Liverpool charge, the names of the pastors appearing under the
chapter devoted to Liverpool.
New Jerusalem Church. The chapel of the New Jerusalem Church near
Montgomery's Ferry, was dedicated June 19, 1898. Its building came about
through the efforts of Rev. John Edgar Smith, a missionary of that denomination.
Messiah Union Church. Messiah Union Church is located in Hunter's
Valley, and was erected in 1865. Among those interested in its erection
were Jacob Charles, John W. Charles, G. W. Kepner, Michael Seiler and Abraham
Crow. The Lutherans, Evangelicals, Methodists and Reformed peoples held
services there at different times. When it was remodeled, in 1883, it was
done as a union church of the Lutherans, Evangelicals and Methodists. This
was the first church built in the valley, being constructed of stone.
Prior to its construction services were held in the schoolhouses. It is in
regular use, and is supplied by the pastors from Liverpool. See Liverpool
The above information was abstracted from the
book, "History of Perry County Pennsylvania; H. H. Hain; Harrisburg
HOME | BACK