History of Butler County Pennsylvania - 1883

Chapter 1 -- Introductory and Descriptive

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Transcribed by Donna E. Mohney. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.





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To rescue from a fast engulfing oblivion the events which have occurred in this county during a period of wellnigh a hundred years; to preserve and to do honor to the memory of those who first dwelt within its boundaries; and to present an historical view of the institutions and industries of borough and hamlet and township -- is the object we have had in view in the preparation of this work. It has been our endeavor to gather and glean the facts thoroughly, to present them simply and plainly.

As the table of contents indicates, the history consists practically of two departments. The first sixteen chapters contain the general history of the county, and, incidentally, some fragments of the history of Western Pennsylvania. In the thirty-four succeeding and supplementary chapters (upon the borough of Butler and the townships), those minor details of history are preserved which could not well be given place in the chapters upon a broader class of subjects. In these will be found carefully made records of the early settlement, accounts of churches and schools, and much of incident illustrative of the men and manners of the early times.

Returning to the general history, we will remark that, within its first score or so of pages, the effort is frequently made, not only to chronicle facts, but to show their relation as causes and effects in the great chain of events by which a portion of the wilderness was reclaimed and added to the mighty realm of civilization. In the first few chapters of this department, a chronological order of arrangement is maintained, as nearly as may be, while in the later ones the topical form is resorted to as much simpler, as well as more practical and appropriate.

In Chapter 2, following this brief introduction to the work and description of the country, is given nearly all that is known of the history of this immediate region prior to the year 1796. Certain topics, however, are reserved for treatment in the succeeding chapter on land title and survey, in which the peculiar conditions under which Northwest Pennsylvania was thrown open to settlement are quite fully explained. Under the title, "Advent of the White Man as a Settler," is given a brief history of the settlement of the county, with remarks upon the evil and retarding effect upon it of the contested land title, and the narrative of an event which worked an important change. Many of the trials of pioneer life are dwelt upon in the chapter next following, and the building of the log cabin, the dress, customs and occupations of the first settlers, are minutely described. A chapter on the public improvements in the county -- from the days when the "mud road" was the only means of communication down to and including the era of railroad development -- is next given. A separate chapter is devoted to the civil history of the county, and outlines its organization, the establishment of its courts, and the division and subdivision of townships, including, also, a valuable reference list of county officers, and the Representatives of the county in the State and Federal Governments. The bar, the press and the medical professions have each a place in the volume, and a roster is given of the Butler County soldiers in the war of 1812. The county, in the dark days of the rebellion, responded to the call for troops in a manner of which her people may ever be proud. The soldiers' record is given the large space which [p. 10] its importance demands, and occupies two voluminous chapters. The history of the oil development is traced from the beginning to the present, with as much minuteness as is possible in a work not devoted exclusively to the subject. In conclusion, the general history presents brief chapters upon the more important county societies, and upon population, productions, etc.

Butler County* is bounded upon the north by Venango, on the east by Armstrong, on the south by Allegheny and on the west by Beaver, Lawrence and Mercer. Its northern line measures fifteen miles, one hundred and fifty-two perches; and the western (and northwestern), thirty-seven miles and ninety-eight perches. It contains an area of 785 square miles, or about 502,400 acres of land.
* We may here remark that the county, and also its principal town, were named after Maj. Gen. Richard BUTLER, who fell at ST. CLAIR's defeat, in what is now Western Ohio, November 4, 1791. A statue of Gen. BUTLER appears upon the court house.

The chief and central figure in the topography of Butler County is the great dividing ridge between the waters of the Allegheny on the east, and the tributaries of the Beaver on the west. This crest of the great water-shed sweeps through the eastern part of the county in a general direction nearly north. It enters the county in Middlesex Township, runs northeast through Clinton and Jefferson Townships to DILKS' Station, on the Butler Branch Railroad, and thence northward in an almost straight line to Middletown, in Concord Township. From the latter point, it extends northward to North Washington and Annisville, and rounding in a semi-circle the headwaters of Slippery Rock Creek, passes close to Farmington, and thence northward to the county line, along which it runs in a westerly direction, and, sweeping again to the north, runs off along the line between Mercer and Venango Counties. Two prominent ridges coming in from the west meet the great "divide" near Middletown. The most northern of these is that which lies between Muddy Creek and Slippery Rock, and runs nearly due east from the Lawrence County line through Worth, Brady and Clay Townships. The more southern of these ridges is that which separates the waters of Muddy Creek and the Connoquenessing. It passes close to Portersville and Prospect, and runs nearly northeast through Center and Concord Townships to its junction with the great divide. The height of these dividing ridges reaches about fifteen hundred feet, and they are approximately six hundred feet above the Allegheny River at Parker.

The center of the drainage system of the northern part of the county may be said to be Middletown. In its immediate vicinity are the head-waters of Slippery Rock, Muddy Creek, Bear Creek, Buffalo Creek, and Kearns' Branch of the Connoquenessing. While the northern part of the county is principally drained by Muddy Creek and Slippery Rock, the Connoquenessing takes nearly all of the waters of the southern part. It is formed by the confluence of several branches near Butler Borough, flows a generally southwest direction (though making many bold sweeps to the north and south), and nearly all of its principal tributaries -- Thorn, Glade, Breakneck and Brush Creeks -- enter it from the south. The exception is Little Conquenessing, which flows in from the northeast, a little above Harmony, after running a general parallel course.

The principal affluents of the Allegheny which receive the whole or any parts of their waters from Butler County are Bear Creek, in the northeastern part; Buffalo, in the eastern and southeastern; and Bull Creek, in the southern. Probably nine-tenths of the drainage of the county is westward into the Beaver.

There is comparatively little of valley land in Butler County. A broad and beautiful valley has, however, been carved out by the Connoquenessing in the vicinity of Harmony and Zelionople. The soil is there derived from the lower coal measures, and is very rich and strong. This region is truly the garden spot of the county, and as fair to the eye of the husbandman as to him who admires it for beauty alone. Well-defined terraces exist here, and do not appear elsewhere in the county, to our knowledge. They occur at twenty, sixty, and one hundred and ten feet above the stream; but can only be traced for a short distance along the valley.

Some fine bottom lands appear along Slippery Rock from Annandale westward, and the valley of Muddy Creek presents some similar bottoms, extending from Clay Township westward to the Lawrence County line.

Nearly all of the arable soils in the county are derived from what the geologists call the barren measure rocks. The streams cut down into the lower coals, but the hillsides are generally so steep and rough that they cannot well be cultivated. Prof. I. C. WHITE, author of the geological report upon the district including southern Butler County,* says upon this subject: "It will be seen that the farmers have very little in their favor with which to begin, and hence the use of fertilizers is necessary to secure a paying crop. * * * The lower barren measures from which nearly all of the soils of the district are derived contain very little limestone, and [p. 11] hence the small amount of calcareous matter originally in the soil has nearly all been used up by the annual extraction of the crops, so that the land is literally famishing for lime."
* Volume "Q" Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania, including Beaver, North Allegheny and South Butler. From this and the volume including the report on the northern part of the county, by H. Martyn CHANCE, many of the facts contained in this chapter are taken.

Prof. CHANCE, in his contribution to the Second Geological Survey (Vol. 5), divides the soils of the northern part of the county into four classes, and says that a fifth might be added by considering the soil affected by the outcrop of the ferriferous limestone as a separate kind. "Along the Slippery Rock," says he, "in Slippery Rock, Worth, Brady, Cherry, Mercer and Marion Townships, much of this land is very greatly improved by the presence of this rock, but it is so thin -- rarely exceeding fifteen feet -- that we are hardly justified in asserting that there is any characteristic, limestone soil in the county." His four classes of soils are -- first, the soil of the bottom lands, found on Muddy Creek and Slippery Rock and their branches, "sometimes being a loose, sandy loam, forming excellent meadow land, but, occasionally a hard, stiff, clayey earth, very difficult to cultivate;" second, the high lands of the barren measures, "formed from the disintegration of clayey and sandy shale and sandstone," varying from a rather thin, loose soil, to a very hard, tough clay, much of it making quite good farming land, well adapted to grazing, but needing a liberal application of lime; third, the high land in southern Brady, Clay, Concord, and Fairview Townships, formed by the outcrop of the Mahoning and Freeport sandstones, very poor and but little cultivated; fourth, the soil formed from the disintegration of the shales and sandstones of the lower productive coal measures, varying much in quality, as the coal measure rocks vary in lithological character.

It is not deemed necessary to enter upon a description of the geology of Butler County in this work. There are books in existence written by masters in the science, and devoted exclusively to the subject, and they are within the easy reach of all. Sections of the rocks are given in another chapter, under the heading of "Oil Well Records," and the production of petroleum is fully described, and followed from the beginning down to the present time.

The earth and rocks hold vast riches in this region, and the work of developing these riches has been scarcely begun. Early in the history of the county, the iron ore in the western and northern parts of the county was extensively smelted, and with profit to almost a dozen furnaces, but more recently the furnaces were found to be unable to compete with other and larger ones in various parts of the country, supplied with a superior ore and having better facilities for transportation.

The vast deposits of coal, however, are the most valuable of Butler County's mineral deposits, and are an almost inexhaustible source of wealth. There is not a township in the county where coal does not occur, and in all of them it is mined at least for home consumption, and has been during a period extending almost as far back as the first settlement of the country. Of late years, it has been extensively mined for commercial purposes in the northern part of the county, and that industry will be found elsewhere described in this volume.*
* See chapters upon the northwestern townships.

[End of Chapter 1--Intoductory and Descriptive: History of Butler County, Pennsylvania. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Waterman, Watkins, & Co., Chicago, 1883.]

Chapter 02--The Region Prior to 1796
1883 Butler County History Contents
Butler County Pennsylvania USGenWeb Homepage

Edited 11 Nov 1999, 18:59