Part of the PAGenWeb


Home  | Back

Ann Smullen's, Greene Pastures site

Juniata Township, as originally formed, contained all of Tuscarora and Oliver Townships and parts of Miller and Centre.  It was the fifth township to be formed in the territory now comprising Perry County.  It was taken from Rye Township, which then extended clear across the county from the Cumberland to the Juniata County line.

At the present time its boundaries are as follows:  On the north by Tuscarora, on the east of Oliver, on the south by Centre, and on the west by Saville.  Through it flows Buffalo Creek, and on the south Little Buffalo Creek divides it from Centre Township, its lands being drained by both creeks.  The most conspicuous physical feature of the township is Middle Ridge, whose gentle slopes are everywhere under cultivation and dotted with prosperous farm buildings and homes.  Along its very top westward for many miles runs the Middle Ridge road.

Juniata Township was formed in 1793, or twenty-seven years before the creation of Perry County.  At the January sessions of the Cumberland County courts, in 1793, two petitions were presented, signed by a large number of citizens of Rye Township, stating that they "labored under many and great disadvantages by reason of the great extent of said township, and praying the court that the said township may be divided by a line along the top of Mahanoy Mountain from the line of Tyrone Township to the Juniata River."  The court granted the request of the petitioners and name the township Juniata, by reason of its bordering the Juniata River.  Bloomfield Borough was taken from Juniata before Centre Township was formed.

In the western end of the township, extending into Saville, are lands early patented by the pioneers, one of 329 acres being granted to John D. Creigh, in August, 1791, who sold it to Jacob Miller in 1812.  In 1788, Job Stretch owned the land of the Tressler farm; Robert Garrett, the lands on Buffalo Creek below Milford, later owned by B. F. Miller and George Campbell; James Keenan, near the old Middle Ridge Presbyterian Church, a farm on which he kept a small store, and Alexander Stuart, the farm known in the community as the James Stephens farm.

The village known as Milford was first known as Jonestown, and was laid out about 1814-16.  It then became Milford, later Juniata, and now Wila, the post office known as Juniata being discontinued for a very short time and then reestablished with the name of Wila, as a suburb of Altoona, which had long wanted to use the name of Juniata, immediately preempted it when it was discontinued.  Many consider the temporary closing of the post office at this point to have been a ruse to use the name Juniata elsewhere.  The little village is romantically located on the banks of Buffalo Creek, two miles from Newport, on lands warranted to William Parkinson, in 1755.  The tract comprised 161 acres, on which was located a sawmill and pond.  To present and past generations this site is known as Toomey's mill.  Edward Riggins was the owner of the Toomey gristmill at Milford, in 1841, when Emanuel Toomey entered it to learn the milling business.  In after years he leased the mill for a three-year period, but never owned it.  His son, Jerome Toomey, one of the best millers in the county in his day, purchased it in 1880 and operated it until 1896, when his son, Thomas L. Toomey, the present owner, purchased it.  The founder of Milford was Joseph Jones, great-grandfather of D. Meredith and Alvin Jones, late of Newport; also of John A. Jones, a cavalryman under Fitzpatrick and a law student at New Bloomfield, who was killed in action at Solemn Grove, North Carolina.  The farm known as the Jacob Fleisher place was taken up by Job Stretch, who was loyal to the mother country in the Revolutionary War, and who suddenly left for Canada when things got "too warm."  

Milford was one of the earliest settlements in the county.  Prior to 1823 Dr. John Eckert was already practicing medicine there, he having died in that year.  He was a German, said to have been very successful, and was probably the first physician located there.  Then for ten years there is no record of there being any physicians there.  About 1834 Dr. John H. Doling moved from Newport to Milford, where he practiced until his death in 1857, excepting for a short period when he got the "gold fever" and went to California.  Of powerful physique he has left a record for wonderful strength.  Prior to 1841 for a few years Dr. Ward practiced there, and then removed to Carlisle.  Before 1847 Dr. Philip Whitesides practiced there.  In that year he removed to Newport, where he practiced until 1856.  The Drs. Simonton, who had practiced at Ickesburg, also practiced at Milford for a time prior to their removal to Illinois.  In 1857 Dr. Joseph Eby settled there, but removed to Newport in 1860.  During the early years of the War between the States Dr. Fetzer was located there.  From then on, excepting for a short period in 1881, when Dr. O. P. Bollinger located there, Milford had ceased to be the location for a physician.  

One of the oldest schoolhouses in this township as now constituted was on a line running from the upper part of Middle Ridge to Saville Township.  Another was on the Jefferson Super farm, now owned by George H. Super, and was known as "the Eight-Square schoolhouse," by reason of its being built in octagon shape.  Its location was two miles southeast of Donnally's Mills, where the road to Newport crosses the road to Markesville.  The contract was let May 12, 1838, to Jacob Swartz, who built it for $140.  The directors were to haul the sand and stone and Mr. Swartz was "to build of stone in a good and substantial manner of an eight-square figure, ten feet in the story, and each square to be ten feet in the inside, from corner to corner, to be eighteen inches in thickness, a twelve-light window in each square, to be well floored, an well nailed with brads."  It was a noted meeting place, but was torn down almost a half-century ago.  Lydia Stewart was the first teacher in 1839.  Dr. Super, one of the two Perry County boys who became college presidents, first went to school in this building.  The farm on which it stood was warranted by Squire Monroe.

Less than a mile south of Milford, at the tope of Middle Ridge, on the road leading from Carlisle to Sunbury, was an old tavern known as the "White Ball Tavern," which was kept by Philip Clouser in 1812.  Clouser at that time owned a large tract of land adjoining.  This hostelry was discontinued about 1840.  South of it, on Little Buffalo Creek, John Koch (Kough) kept the "Blue Ball Tavern," which was a popular resort for "shooting matches."  From the "Blue Ball" tavern a horn notified the "White Ball" tavern, during the Second War with Great Britain, that a mounted messenger or dispatch rider from Washington was passing, so that on his arrival at the top of the ridge a fresh mount was saddled and waiting.  Springing from one horse to the other he proceeded to Reider's Ferry (now Newport), where a ferry flat awaited his arrival.  There being no telegraph or telephone lines in those days, messages were relayed from the War Department at the National Capital to the army at Niagara by speedy horses.  The route from what is now New Bloomfield seems an odd one to have taken, but it most be remembered that Newport and New Bloomfield were nonexistent and the highway connecting those towns was then not even dreamed of.  

William Fosselman built a tannery near St. Samuel's Church, in 1866.  Robert Stephens, who lived on Hominy Ridge, occupied a stone house and operated a tannery, but the trend citywards and the modern tanning operations on a huge scale have left the once busy place deserted and almost a ruin.

Juniata Township was the home of James Stephens, a brother of Andrew, who was the father of the noted Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy.  Their father, Capt. Alexander Stephens, had taken the two boys, James and Andrew, along to Georgia, when he emigrated there in 1794, but James returned to Perry County and settled in Juniata Township, where he owned 300 acres of land in 1820, the year of the county's erection.  He married Elizabeth Garrett and was the father nine children, and his brother, Andrew, in the South, was the father of eight.  The sons of James, tall, and erect, are remembered by many of the present generation.  They were full cousins of the noted Alexander H., but were loyal Northerners.  The noted Southern commoner, when a young man, visited his uncles, James Stephens, in Juniata Township, an account of which appears in the chapter devoted to Alexander H. Stephens, elsewhere in this book.  Descendants of James Stephens yet reside in New Bloomfield.  From James, who returned North, descended Prof. James A. Stephens, a noted earlier educator, and his son, Robert Neilson Stephens, the famous author.

Markelville.  In February, 1763, the lands on which Markelville is located were warranted to Edward Elliott, and named in the warrant as "Pretty Meadow."  In April, 1769, the adjoining tract was warranted to John Peden, who came from Lancaster County,and was named "Down Patrick".  The "Pretty Meadow" tract contained 120 acres,and the "Down Patrick" 142 acres.  The "Pretty Meadow" tract was sold to William Wallace, an innkeeper of Carlisle, in 1782, and he came into possession of the other tract through the will of his sister, Martha Peden.  In John Peden's will, dated August 1, 1775, is this clause:  "And I allow, in case my child dies, that my wife, Martha, shall have that plantation lying in Sherman's Valley, known as 'Down Patrick,' she to pay twenty pounds to the other executor, to be put to use for the support of a minister in Donegal."  By her will, dated a year later, it passed to the innkeeper.  There is no record of any improvements until 1775, when part of it was under cultivation by some squatters who had been driven off by hostile Indians.  Not until 1776 or 1777 did Elliot and Peden clear and cultivate land there.  Tradition says these lands were settled earlier but there records do not bear it out.

Wallace transferred the lands to James McNamara in 1793, and he erected the first house in the place, and later a mill, and it came to be known as "McNamara's Mill."  McNamara sold the tract to Valentine Smith, from whom his son, John Smith, acquired twenty-two acres, including the grist and sawmill, and the lands upon which Markelsville is located.  From Smith it passed to John Weary, and from him to William Bosserman, in 1834.  It then came to be known as Bosserman's Mill, and a post office was established bearing that name.  Then the property was sold in two parcels, the lands principally going to John Leiby, who, in 1853 sold to George Markle, whose building operations and public spirit gave his name to the town.  The mill, on the other hand, passed to George Leonard, who, in 1868, sold to David Bixler.  The next owners were A. S. Whitekettle, whose title dates to 1886; Henry K. Frymoyer, 1894; Yearick & Dock, 1898, Mr. Yearick later becoming sole owner; Gordon Brothers, 1900; J. T. Alter, 1909, selling almost at once to Linn H. Boyer; Wm. A. Patton, 1911; and Lloyd D. Stambaugh, the present owner, in 1915.

Jonas Lesh kept the first store there.  Other early storekeepers were Thomas Black, Peter Ouran, William Bosserman, George Leiby, George Markel,  Jr., Daniel Sutman, and later A. S. Whitekettle and Miller E. Flickinger.  The present Markelsville includes the site of "Little Vienna", which was patented by Alexander Myers in 1809, and contained 365 acres.  In 1815 he planned and laid out the "future city" on lands just south of the Lutheran Church.  In March of that year he had public auction of lots and succeeded in selling eighteen, each of which contained thirty-one perches.  But three houses were built upon them, as follows:  One by a tailor named John Smith, another by George Folk, and the third by Isaac Frantz.  A right-of-way was reserved to Buffalo Creek for the residents and a public road provided, but with the death of Myers also died the dream of the great city to be located there.

The Markelville Academy was opened in 1855, but its history is more property part of the chapter on Public Institutions, elsewhere in this book.

Markelsville has been the location of a number of physicians.  Among them were Dr. J. E. VanCamp, 1869-71; Dr. J. D. Shull, 1887-96; Dr. Geo. W. Lupfer, after 1881, and Dr. Chas J. Manning, after 1889.

According to the report of the mercantile appraiser the following are the business firms of Juniata Township, the year following names being the date of beginning business:

M. E. Flickinger (1898), general store and postmaster at Markelville.  Opened by Geo. Markel (1856), whose successor was A. S. Whitekettle.
C. A. Scott and A. F. Walkmeyer, general stores.
L. D. Stambaugh and T. L. Toomey, grain, flour and feed.

Middle Ridge Presbyterian Church:  Among the earlier churches located in Juniata Township, Middle Ridge Church stood first.  Many yet living can remember its individual pews, with gates hung on forged hinges with brass screws.  It stood on the Adam Sheaffer farm (formerly W. E. Raffensberger's), in the Middle Ridge road, and was used by the Reformed Presbyterians, known as "the seceders" after it had been abandoned by the Presbyterians.  A full description appears under the chapter, "The Earliest Churches."  

Sulphur Springs Church.  This is now Rodenbaugh's Church, earlier known as Kough's Church, located near the former Henry Fickes farm, close to Little Buffalo Creek, opposite Shoaff's mill.  It is now known locally as the Sulphur Springs Church.  Its erection must have been prior to 1824, as in that year New Bloomfield's location is named as "on the road leading from the Dutch Meeting House in Juniata Township."

Markelville Churches.  The residents of this territory practically all attended the Middle Ridge Presbyterian Church until about 1840, when Marx Bealor deeded a half-acre of ground to the Lutheran and German Presbyterian congregations.  They erected a union church the same year.  German Lutherans in the community included the Beistleins, Lenigs, Swartz, Smiths, Crists, Burrells and others.  This church was sometimes known as Bealor's Church.  In 1839, Rev. John William Heim began holding services at the hill schoolhouse, near Bosserman's mill.  Simultaneously a Sunday school was organized.  This was the nucleus of this church.  Daniel Swartz and John Bealor were the building committee.  It was a log building 30x35 feet in size, had high galleries on three sides, supported by heavy posts and crossbeams, a high pulpit and high seats.  Of it Rev. D. H. Focht said:  "It seems to have been adapted to make preaching go hard."  The first officers were John Beistlein, elder, and Daniel Swartz, deacon.  It was dedicated in 1841, and was named St. John's Church.  Rev. Heim preached every four weeks in German until his death in December, 1849.  He succeeded by Rev. Jacob Martin, who preached every third time in English, which enraged the German-speaking members, who even refused to attend the sacramental service.  he resigned in March, 1852, and was followed by Rev. William Gerhardt, who served until June, 1853.  Rev. A. R. Height followed in March, 1854.  He became the first superintendent of schools of Perry County the same year.

On June 1, 1855, this church became part of the New Bloomfield charge, and on the same date Rev. D. H. Focht became the pastor.  The ministers from then on have been the same.  See chapter on New Bloomfield.  The new brick church was built in 1882,  It is 40x60 feet in size.  The building committee was composed of Joseph Flickinger, Thomas Lenig, Samuel Carl and A. S. Whitekettle.  The Reformed Church was built about 1888.  It is served by the New Bloomfield pastors.

St. Samuel's Lutheran Church.*  The early history of this church seems to be somewhat obscured.  Rev. Focht, in his Churches Between the Mountains, tells of the organization of a congregation at Millerstown in March, 1850, by Rev. William Weaver, with "upwards of forty persons."  He also tells of a Mr. John Kinter donating a plot for the erection of a church "near Millerstown" and of the laying of the corner stone on September 26, 1861.  His book was printed in 1862, and in it he says:  "It is expected the new church will be ready in August of this year."  It appears to have been built upon the lands of William Rice, in Tuscarora Township, about two miles from Millerstown.  Rev. J. J. Kerr was instrumental in having it torn down and removed from that location to lands of Andrew T. Brown, in Juniata Township, later owned by Isaiah Mitchell, and now by Harvey Ulsh.  Since it has been located in Juniata Township the Newport Lutheran pastors have supplied it.  See Newport Chapter.  

*To Levi Smith, aged 81 in 1920, the author is indebted for facts in reference to this church.

Walnut Grove Methodist Church.  Prior to the building of the Walnut Grove Methodist Church the meetings or services were held in the school building, which was later destroyed by fire.  Rev. John B. Mann was one of the first pastors.  The church was built in 1880-81, being dedicated in the spring of 1881.  It was remodeled in 1911.  Its membership is about 120, with a Sunday school of over 100 members.  It is part of the New Bloomfield charge, where the pastor's names appear.

Milford United Evangelical Church.  The Milford United Evangelical Church is located at Milford (Wila).  The first services in this vicinity were held at the home of Henry Toomey (now Mr. Kinzer's), about one mile west of Milford, in or near 1840.  In 1844 a church was built, of which George Houtz, Frederic Dum and Daniel Lesh were trustees.  While they were raising the frame a storm blew it down, so the size was made somewhat smaller (35x40), so that the same lumber could be used.  It was at first a pebble dashed church, but about 1885 was weatherboarded and new windows and shutters placed thereon.  Samuel Tressler, Peter E. Smith and John Fosselman were then trustees.  In 1902 modern pews replaced the old seats.  In 1913 a belfry and bell were added.  It has always been a part of the Perry Circuit, the ministers being the same as those found under the Elliottsburg church in the chapter relating to Spring Township.

The above information was extracted from the book, History of Perry County Pennsylvania; H. H. Hain; Harrisburg; 1922.  

Home  | Back

Ann Smullen's, Greene Pastures site



This site is maintained  by Cathy Wentz-Eisenstadt
Copyright 2003-2010.  All Rights Reserved.

This page was last updated on:   03/14/2009

People for better PA Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access)
Learn about the grassroots effort to make older PA state death certificates available on-line!!  Please consider helping.