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History of Butler County Pennsylvania - 1883

Chapter 19 -- Connoquenessing

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Transcribed by Penny Sabin. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.



Illustrations And Biographies In Chapter XIX

p. 184a-- Norman Graham
p. 184a-- Norman Graham Bio
p. 191-- Reid Bracken Bio



[p. 183]

THE original township of Connoquenessing was set apart in 1804, at which date all of Butler County was included in four townships, viz.: Slippery Rock, Buffalo, Connoquenessing and Middlesex. When the first tax was levied, the valuation of the county was $258,840, apportioned as follows: Slippery Rock, $15,264; Buffalo, $43,637; Connoquenessing, $134,336; Middlesex, $35,513.

Connoquenessing Township, as it now is, was organized in 1854, from portions of Connoquenessing and Butler Townships. Two small villages, Whitestown and Petersville, are included within its limits. Connoquenessing contains some beautiful farming lands, with buildings and improvements that will compare favorably with the rest of the county. The people of the township have ever been prominent in promoting religious and educational interests. Many of the best-known teachers of the county received their early training in the schools of this township, and many men of prominence in county affairs have been furnished by old Connoquenessing.


The early settlers of this township were of three distinct types, viz.: Irish, Scotch and German-American. Only chance settlers located in this part of the county previous to the year 1796. In that year, a great number of families from Westmereland [sic] County established themselves here, and were mainly permanent settlers.

One of the first white men to penetrate the wilds of this part of Western Pennsylvania was Peter MCKINNEY. He was born in the eastern part of the State. The "Mc" in his name was probably a prefix bestowed during his soldier days, as his pension papers were always made out to Peter Kinney. He was of a bold, adventurous nature, and was attracted into the wilderness by a fondness for hunting. MCKINNEY was left an orphan at an early age by the death of his father, and, when a boy, was bound out to a man named TURNBULL. He served through the Revolutionary war as a drummer and fifer, and, after its close, was seven years in the service during the Indian troubles. In 1791, he married Mary SHORTS, at Braddock's Field, Westmoreland County, and, the following year, came with his wife to the Connoquenessing Valley. Indians were almost his only neighbors, and wild game was so abundant everywhere that he seemed to be living in a veritable hunter's paradise. MCKINNEY built his first cabin on the farm now occupied by Fred DAMBACH, in Forward Township, where he took up a 400-acre tract. He afterward built a cabin on the farm where his son, C. A. MCKINNEY, now lives, now in the southern part of Connoquenessing Township, where he also settled 300 acres. He traded 100 acres of land to Barnet GILLILAND for a Merino sheep, and sold another hundred for a sorrel horse.

[p. 184]
Mrs. MCKINNEY was as well fitted by nature for pioneer life as was her husband. She made frequent trips to Pittsburgh to obtain groceries, often going and returning on foot, following the faintly marked Indian trails through miles of uninhabited forests. She died in 1839, aged sixty-three years. Peter MCKINNEY died in 1849, at the age of ninety-one. He was widely known throughout the county, as his house in the village now called after his name was for many years a tavern, and he the landlord. He was a man of small size, and very active in his movements. He worked many years at shoemaking. During the last twenty-one years of his life, he was blind. The children of Peter and Mary MCKINNEY were thirteen in number. All of them lived to mature years except two - Richard and Mary. Two are still living - John M., in Ohio; and C. A. MCKINNEY, Esq., on the old homestead. Following are the names of the family in order of age: Elizabeth, Richard, Robert, Peter, Jane (PURVIANCE), William S., James, Thomas, Sarah, Richard, John M., Mary and C. A. Two of the sons, Peter and Robert, were in the war of 1812.

The date of the settlement of this family in Butler County is the earliest of which there is any authentic account. The first of the above-named children, Elizabeth MCKINNEY was born March 23, 1792, on the farm where her father first located. This was doubtless the first birth of a white child in Butler County.

A great part of the land of this township was held by Dunning MCNAIR, land-jobber, who encouraged settlement with the promise of securing to each settler a patent to the land he should occupy. A number of families were persuaded to settle by him during the year 1796. He and several who were looking for lands were here in 1795, and had their headquarters in a little cabin on the farm where James MCCANDLESS now lives. MCNAIR failed to make good his promises and each settler was obliged to obtain a title for himself. The Scotch settlers all came at his instigation.

John GIRTY, a relative, and some say a brother, of Simon GIRTY, the renowned white savage, was one of the earliest settlers. He lived about a mile south of Whitestown, west of the Franklin road. He died here, and his mother also. They were buried in the woods, and nothing marks their final resting place. Though the family had an unenviable reputation, nothing discreditable is charged against them during their residence here. The early settlers were superstitious, and some of them believed Mother GIRTY to be a witch. For years no youngster dared to pass by her grave alone.

The early settlers found much of the southern part of the township covered with a light growth of sapling timber, as the result of fires. "Bald Ridge," where the oil field now is, was so named on account of the naked appearance of the land.

John EKIN was one of the first of the pioneer settlers. He and Leonard SHANNON came to this county together, erected cabins and returned to Westmoreland County for their families. John EKIN was born in York County. In 1796, he moved his family, consisting of his wife and three children, to this county. A horse carried the furniture and bedding of the household in bundles. Mrs. EKIN rode on his back, with one child in front of her, while her other children were snugly tied up in the bedding, with their little hands protruding from the bundles one on each side of the horse. Arrived at the cabin, Mr. EKIN went to the nearest settler's house (Mr. CRAWFORD's) to obtain some fire. During his absence, Mrs. EKIN took the ax and cut a path to the spring. John EKIN died in 1837, aged seventy-six. His wife, Agnes, died in 1833, at the age of sixty-eight. They had fourteen children. Eight reached mature years, and one, Margaret (SANDERSON), born 1790, still survives. The names were as follows: Margaret, Robert, Jane (HAMILTON), Samuel, Nancy (DODDS), William, John J. and Elizabeth. John J. lived in the same neighborhood, and died in 1881, aged eighty years. He married Rachel CUNNINGHAM, and was the father of the following children: Eliza J. (GRANUE), Robert S., William F., Margaret and Mary R., living; Nancy (BROWN) and Rachel, deceased.

For a time there were only two families - the EKINs and the CRAWFORDs - in the neighborhood. Supplies were packed from Westmoreland County, a trip for this purpose being made about once in three months.

Francis SANFORD came soon after the EKIN family. David MOON, a German, settled near the present site of ALLEN's Mill.

A number of Scotch families came to this county from Westmoreland in 1796, and took up lands between the Little Connoquenessing and the Connoquenessing Creek. For years, this part of the county, now in Forward and Connoquenessing, was known as "Scotland." These families were the GRAHAMs (five or six families), the MCDONALDs, MCLEODs, MCLAINs and others, all more or less intimately related.

Daniel GRAHAM, like many of the original settlers, had served in the American Army during the Revolution. He moved here from Allegheny County in 1796, and died in 1840, in his eighty-ninth year. He had three daughters and two sons, who settled here with him - Nancy (MCKEE), Margaret (GRAHAM) and Catherine (WALLING), John and Alexander. John was engaged in flat-boating on the Mississippi River in 1812. A trip from New Orleans to Pittsburgh required

[unnumbered page, portrait and biographical sketch of Norman GRAHAM]

[p. 185]
six months. Fancy the labor involved in propelling a boat with poles that distance! John GRAHAM died in 1827. He married Mary MCLEOD and was the father of six children, four of whom are living - Norman, Jane, Nancy (deceased), Daniel, Mary Ann (deceased) and Alexander.

Mordecai MCLEOD took up the tract on a part of which Norman GRAHAM lives, but sold out to John and Daniel GRAHAM. Another Daniel GRAHAM - "Big Daniel," in distinction from the one already mentioned - had three sons - Alexander, John and Daniel - and two daughters - Ebbie (CRITCHLOW) and Polly (CRANE). Alexander GRAHAM, son of Daniel, died on the farm where his son, Thomas GRAHAM, now lives, in 1855. He married Elizabeth RANEY in this county. Their seven children were as follows: Jane (BRENNERMER) Hiram, Sidney, Daniel, Thomas, John and Theophilus. Of these, all are living except Daniel.

A third Daniel GRAHAM lived in Forward Township, adjacent to Petersville. He had a son, Squire Daniel, who lived upon the place until 1858, and then moved West. William MCLAIN and his children, John, George, William, Robert, Polly, Nancy, Minerva, Elizabeth and Margaret, lived in Forward Township, on the farm now belonging to Leslie HAYS. One of the MCLEODs - William - was the first person buried in the White Oak Spring Cemetery.

Colen MCDONALD lived where Peter THOMAS now resides. His sons, William and John, died in Indiana. Among his daughters were Ebbie, Nancy and Flora. John MCDONALD settled upon a tract east of Norman GRAHAM's farm. He was away at work to earn money to pay taxes when John BAYLES squatted upon the land, and finally succeeded in becoming the possessor of it. BAYLES was killed by being thrown from his wagon as he was returning from MARTIN's Mill. He lived about a week after the accident.

Enos GRAHAM lived on the place now known as the ANDERSON farm. His first residence was a small bark-covered shanty, erected for a shelter until a more substantial cabin could be built. He had served in the Revolutionary war, and his sons, Alexander and Mordecai, were in the war of 1812. Enos and Nancy (MCDONALD) GRAHAM had nine children, eight of whom lived to mature years. One, Mrs. Julia DUNCAN, born in 1809, still survives. Names of the family: Mary (KIRK), Alexander, Mo[r]decai, Nancy (BOGGS), Margaret (MCDONALD), Enos, John and Julia (DUNCAN).

It is related that Mrs. Enos GRAHAM once brought a bushel of corn-meal from Pittsburgh, on foot and alone, through the almost pathless forest. The thought of such a task is enough to make a strong man tremble.

John BEIGHLE, who was born in Maryland of German parentage, came to this township with his brothers and commenced work upon the land which was to be his farm, in 1796. In 1798, he moved his family here from Westmoreland County. Nicholas M_HLEISEN - MILLIRON in English - came about the same time and settled with his family in 1797. Henry BEIGHL[E] first built where George KNEISS now lives, in 1796, but afterward moved to another part of the same tract and lived on the Crab Run bottom, south of his brother John. This stream was so named from the abundance of crab apples which the early settlers found growing wild along its banks. The BEIGHLEs and M_HLEISENs made frequent trips back and forth to Westmoreland County on foot while they were getting their families settled here, and afterward to obtain supplies. John BEIGHLE died in 1846, aged eighty-two. His children were Mary, John, George C., Catharine (MYERS), Margaret and Rachel. Only two are living - Mary (MYERS), born in Westmoreland County 1796, and George, born in this county in 1799. George BEIGHLE is the oldest native resident of this township. He married Jane DUNN, daughter of John DUNN, who settled near Evansburg. She is still living and is also a native of this county, born in 1803. They have seven children living.

A house erected by John BEIGHLE in 1798, with a chimney in it, built in 1799, is still standing and is now the home of his grandson. In this house was taught one of the first schools in Butler County. Here was also the place of worship of the German people in early times. A log barn, built by John BEIGHLE in 1805, is still in use. This barn was floored and a roof put on in 1806. The floor was made of puncheons [a slab of timber or piece of log, with a roughly smooth face]. While the men were at work laying it, the great solar eclipse occurred, and candles had to be brought to enable them to continue.

Henry BEIGHLE died in 1836. His children were John, Henry, Jacob, Christina, Susan, Betsey, Catherine, Mary, Martha and Lydia. Two survive - Martha (KNEISS) and Lydia (ROTH). Three brothers of John and Henry BEIGHLE - George, Jacob and Peter - also settled in this county - George and Peter in Lancaster Township, and Jacob in Clay.

Nicolaus M_HLEISEN was a German who came from east of the mountains to Westmoreland County. He was a weaver and a cooper and was quite adept at all kinds of "tinkering." He reared a large family, sixteen children, not one of whom now remains in the neighborhood. He was a jovial man, with a taste for practical joking. Once when his neighbor, John BEIGHLE, was going to Westmoreland County with a sled load of produce, M_HLEISEN hid a grindstone in the straw. When John arrived at his destination and found that he had been hauling the grindstone all the way, he was not in the humor to see the point of the joke.

[p. 186]
The BEIGHLEs and M_HLEISENs and a man named CAMPBELL, who lived on the Myers farm frequently engaged in bear hunts in the spring of the year. Their method was to tree the bears, which usually took refuge in a hollow tree, then make an "Indian ladder" by felling a tree against the one in which the game was, climb it, and pound on the hollow trunk with a hatchet until the bears came forth. One spring they killed eleven bears and cubs. They traded the skins for a cross-cut saw, which was owned in partnership by the hunters, and passed from one hand to another until it was soon good for nothing.

James PLUMMER was a pioneer on the MATTHEWS farm.

George MATTHEWS, who died in 1869, and was buried on the one hundred and third anniversary of his birthday, was one of the pioneers of the western part of the township. He moved from the eastern part of the State to Allegheny County in 1806. He was a soldier of the war of 1812, and served as a Lieutenant of Capt. MCCURDY's company. In 1813, he came to this county and settled on Crab Run. Pioneer customs then prevailed. All kinds of stock ran in the woods. Hogs, after a summer of freedom, became wild animals, and in the fall it was necessary to hunt them up and shoot them, as they were frequently so fond of their wild life that they could not be induced to return to their former stys.

George MATTHEWS was the father of ten children, of whom three survive. Nancy died young, David resides in Lancaster Township. Elizabeth (THOMPSON) and Sarah (THOMPSON) are dead. Mary (LINTON) and Jane live in New Brighton. Rachel, Margaret (STEVENSON), James B. an[d] Isaiah are dead. The two sons last mentioned died upon the old farm. Isaiah died in 1869, and James B. in 1882. Their widows reside upon the old farm.

James B. MATTHEWS was widely known throughout the county, and his long service in the schools deserves to be held in grateful remembrance by every friend of education. He gained a wide reputation as an instructor, was Principal of the Butler Schools, County Superintendent, etc. His labors in educational matters covered a period of forty years, and during all that time he worked zealously and faithfully.

The pioneers dressed very simply. Drawers and undershirts were things unknown. Shoes were worn the year round, except by such as chose to go barefooted during the summer. Overcoats were not in use. Yet the people were generally robust and hearty and suffered little from coughs and colds.

Abdiel MCLURE, a native of Ireland, was an American soldier during the Revolution. About 1796, he moved from Westmoreland County and settled south of Whitestown. The children of Abdiel and Nancy MCLURE, who lived in this county, were Robert and Keziah (MARTIN). The remainder of the family lived in Wheeling, W. Va. Robert MCLURE died in 1866, aged seventy-five. He was a wagoner at the time of the 1812 war. He married, first, Agnes MCLEOD, and second Margaret MCLEOD. Of his six children, four are now living.

Alexander BRYSON, and Irishman by birth and an American Revolutionary soldier, moved from Westmoreland County and settled on the Little Connoquenessing in 1798. He and his two sons were bricklayers and stonemasons by trade. He went to Ohio to teach school and died there. His sons were Joseph, Richard, James and David. Joseph and Richard were in the war of 1810 [12]. His daughters were Mary (BLACK), Margaret (DODDS), Jane (STEVENSON), Nancy (GREER), Tasy (SHANOR) and Elizabeth. Mrs. SHANOR is the only survivor.

John WELSH, a Revolutionary pensioner, who was shot through the body at the battle of Brandywine, settled on the farm where his descendants still live previous to 1800. He was one of the early temperance workers and for many years was a total abstainer. His children were William, James, Thomas, John, Su[s]an (BRANDON), Elizabeth (SHANNON) and Mrs. MORROW. The sons were in the war of 1812. James died in 1878, on the old farm, at the age of ninety-three.

Thomas GRAY was an early settler on the farm where his grandson Thomas now lives. His children were James, Thomas, William, John, Boyd and Nancy (GRAHAM).

The farm on which P. I. BARNHART has lived since 1874 was settled by A. BAKER and owned for many years by William AYRES, an attorney of Butler. George KING, who had been a wagoner in the war of 1812, was AYRES' tenant upon the farm. He brought to it the first wagon ever in the neighborhood. The barn upon this farm, a substantial and strongly framed structure, was made in 1814, and is one of the oldest frame buildings in Butler County. The frame was made by Mr. BOWERS for AYRES. In this barn the congregation of the White Oak Spring Church frequently worshiped, and here the first baptism took place. Jacob ENSLEN lived upon the farm after KING.

Thomas DODDS, an early County Commissioner, was born on the ocean while his parents were crossing from Ireland to America in 1760. He lived in Cumberland County and was there married to Mary GUTHRIE. After some years' residence in Westmoreland County, about 1800, the family came to the northeast part of this township, with Mr. DODDS' father, James DODDS. Thomas DODDS died in 1842.

[p. 187]
The names of his children were as follows: William, James, John, Joseph, Andrew, Thomas, George, David, Margaret (BRYSON), Jennie (STEVENSON), Sarah (MCCANDLESS). Three sons - William, James and John - were in the service in 1812. All lived to raise families except James, who died while engaged in flat-boating on the Mississippi after the war of 1812. Sarah, the last survivor, died in 1882. Joseph settled in 1825, where his son Ebenezer now lives.

John MCGINNIS was a substantial citizen of the early times. He was a large, portly man, who reared a large and respectable family. He lived east of the creek. His son Robert still survives, in Franklin Township.

Henry PILLOW was an early settler. His son William was a prominent man, who served as Colonel of militia and held other public positions.

Fox hunts, deer hunts, whisky drinking and occasional fights enlivened the monotony of life in the woods. The silence of the forest was sometimes broken by such a din that an observer, not knowing what was going on, might have suspected that an army of demons was "running amuck" through the woods. But it was all caused by a hunt; boys, men, dogs, guns, horns, drums, pans and kettles were making all the noise they could produce; the captains and the hunters were scouring the woods and attempting to drive the game toward a certain point. It was dangerous sport and usually resulted in securing but very little booty.

Israel GIBSON and a large family of children lived on the R. S. HAYS farm early. A frame barn on this farm is probably the oldest in the township, with one exception.

Matthew WHITE came about 1800, and chose some of the best land in the township, his farm being the land on which the village of Whitestown now is. He was a native of Franklin County, and came to Butler County from Allegheny County. He was one of the early County Commissioners, and while attending to his duties used to walk to Butler and back. Returning home at evening, when he neared the eastern line of the township, he could hear wolves howling in the Little Connoquenessing bottom; farther on, another band would be heard near the Semiconon, and thus the dismal sound attended him all the way home. He died in 1812. The children of Matthew and Frances (SPEAR) WHITE were the following: Alexander, Jane (SHANNON), Andrew, Martha (WELSH), Edward, Ann (SHANNON) Barbara, Jemima and John. All are dead. Barbara, who died in 1801 was the first* to be buried in the Mt. Nebo Cemetery.

*The same statement is made concerning Moses RICHARDSON, whose body was afterward removed to the White Oak Spring Cemetery.

John RICHARDSON came from Ireland and settled in 1800 on the land which his descendants now occupy. He was a weaver and worked at his trade after coming here. William, Moses, Polly (GRAHAM), Eleanor, Jane (COCHRAN), Elizabeth (FRAZIER) were the names of his children. Mrs. Graham is the only survivor. Moses was accidentally killed when seventeen ye[a]rs of age, while at work with his brother felling trees. William married Elizabeth MCCLEARY and lived on the old homestead, where his sons John and William now reside. He was the father of Dr. N. M. RICHARDSON, of Prospect. William RICHARDSON died in 1870, aged eighty-nine.

Robert HAYS, Esq., came from Eastern Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, and while there was offered 200 acres of land where the city of Allegheny now is for a bay horse and $100. He, however, pushed farther on into the wilds, and located on a farm in the western part of this township. After a short stay here, the family returned to Pittsburgh as they came - on horseback - but subsequently returned to the farm on which Judge HAYS now lives. Samuel, son of Robert, had a small store there about 1822, which he kept for twelve years. He also went about the country peddling. William, James, Jonathan, Alexander, Samuel, Anna, Sarah, Matilda and Rebecca were Robert HAYS' children. Samuel died at the old homestead in 1873. His widow, Harriet (HENDERSON), died in 1881. Of their children, Robert S. and James S. are living, both in this township.

David SHANNON, son of Leonard, was seven years of age when his parents settled in this county. He died in 1874, aged eighty-three years. He was a man of good sound sense, gifted with a remarkable memory and a talent for interesting conversation. He served as Justice of the Peace some years, and was editor of the Butler Repository. He learned blacksmithing when young and worked at that trade in Whitestown. He built mills on the Semiconon Creek (a stream named by him; Semi-conon, being equivalent to Semi-Connoquenessing). Mr. SHANNON married Anna WHITE, by whom he had the following children: John L., Matthew W., David, Samuel (deceased), Fanny (MCCULLOUGH), Rachel (HINES), Betsey) [(]deceased) and Mary (LEMMON), deceased.

In 1801, Robert MARTIN emigrated from Ireland and settled in Connoquenessing Township. He first located on Yellow Creek, but afterward moved to this place where his son William C. now resides. Squire Robert MARTIN, as he was called, was well and favorably known throughout the county. For about forty years he held the office of Justice of the Peace; he was also County Commissioner, County Auditor, and served in other responsible offices. He served two

years in the war of 1812, under Maj. Gen. MEAD, as Captain of a company of the One Hundred and Thirty-eighth Pennsylvania Regiment. He died in 1847, at the age of seventy-four. The family which he reared consisted of five sons and two daughters, all of whom are living except two. The youngest is now fifty-five years old. Following are the names and residences of his children: William C., on the old homestead, Connoquenessing Township; Abdiel C., deceased; Robert, deceased; John, Prospect Borough, Franklin Township; James, Penn Township; Jane (DODDS), Iowa; Mary Ann (ANDERSON), Penn Township.

Robert MARTIN, Sr., married Keziah MCLURE in 1808. She died in 1843, in here sixty-third year. William and Elizabeth MARTIN, the parents of Robert, came to this county with him and several other children. Elizabeth MARTIN died in 1840, at the age of one hundred. William C. MARTIN, Robert's eldest son, was born in 1809; John, of Prospect has been County Auditor, Justice of the Peace, etc.

James STEVENSON came from Westmoreland County to Butler in 1811. About 1812, he married Margaret WRIGHT. He served in the war of 1812, and after its close lived several years in Butler, where he worked at coopering. About 1825, he settled and made the first improvement on the farm now occupied by his son George. His children were as follows: David, Hugh, George, Samuel, James, Sarah (DODDS) and Margaret (HAYS). Three are living - George, Connoquenessing; Samuel, Ohio; James, Ohio.

David WRIGHT, a brother-in-law of James STEVENSON, settled on the place where his son Samuel now lives at about the same time, with his father, Samuel WRIGHT.

George COWAN, a native of Ireland, came to Butler County about 1821, and settled near Petersville, and there lived and died. His family consisted of five sons and five daughters, viz., James, Meigs County, Ohio; John, Sharpsburg, Allegheny County; Charles, Forward Township; George, Kansas; Hugh, deceased, Eliza Jane (MCBRIDE), New Castel; Martha (GRAHAM), Evansburg; Mary (CRITCHLOW) Petersville; Sarah, unmarried, Franklin Township; Euphenia (GIP[B]SON), Allegheny County.

John FRY, who has resided in this township since 1851, was in the county in 1829, and describes it as being a little better than a wilderness, with here and there a small clearing, whence arose the blue smoke of a settler's cabin.

Matthias RASELY settled in the neighborhood where he now lives in 1847, and began upon a farm which had only six acres cleared at that time. He moved from Luzerne County.


This is one of the oldest villages in Butler County. It was laid out by Edward WHITE shortly after the death of his father, Matthew WHITE, in 1812. Matthew WHITE's log house was a tavern for many years. Being on the Franklin road, then a much frequented route, it was a place of general rendezvous during the war of 1812 and many subsequent years. After Matthew WHITE died, Edward WHITE kept tavern, and years later, Matthew, son of Alexander WHITE, kept hotel. Joseph PYLE also kept public house in this place a number of years. Matthew WHITE went out of the business on account of temperance agitation, and the village has had no hotel for some twenty years.

The first store at the place was kept by Alfred PEARCE, now of Harmony. Joseph POLLOCK, John W. BRANDON, Thomas and Jacob CRATTY, Matthew WHITE and many others were among the former merchants. The present merchant is Mr. Joseph GRAHAM, son of Joseph GRAHAM, of Jefferson Township. He began business near Glade Mill in 1869, and, in 1871, came to Whitestown and established a store. The village has now one physician, one merchant[,] two blacksmiths, two shoemakers and three carpenters. These are all the occupations carried on here except farming.

A post office was established here at an early date - probably 1830. Edward WHITE was the first Postmaster. John A. FLETCHER was Postmaster forty years, and, in 1879, was succeeded by the present incumbent, Joseph GRAHAM.


This village was named for Peter MCKINNEY. It was laid out after his death by William S. and C. A. MCKINNEY, in June, 1849. At the first sale of lots, Thomas CRITCHLOW was a large purchaser; Jesse CRITCHLOW, George BRUNNAMER and James MCKINNEY also purchased lots. At the second sale, lots were bought by SHELLY, EVANS[,] CRITCHLOW and Henry NICKLAS. Other lots were soon disposed at private sale. The village is now a very lively place and contains three stores, four black-smith shops, two wagon-makers' shops, one shoe-maker's shop, one machine shop and a foundry. Two churches and a physician are supported.

The first tavern in the place was started by Peter MCKINNEY as early as 1839. After the village was laid out, Hugh STEVENSON kept a licensed house some years. There is now no regular hotel.

The first store was kept by Alexander DOUTHETT at Peter MCKINNEY's house. It was a small affair. DOUTHETT came once a week to attend to the business, bringing his store and goods with him. The first

[p. 189]
store of any importance was kept by William and Henry PURVIANCE at the south end of the village, long before the town was laid out. David MARSHALL started a store here in 1838. Thomas CRITCHLOW kept a store two days in each week for some years. He is now in business in Prospect. Robert DODDS, CAMPBELL[,] PURVIANCE, BRYSON & WOODS, FERGUSON & HUSELTON and the MCKINNEYs were former merchants. Conrad NICKLAS is now the oldest merchant, having been in business here about twelve years.

The business of making and repa[i]ring threshing machines and other kinds of farm machinery was started here in 1880 by P. W. THOMAS.

In 1848, a post office was established bearing the name of Petersburg. In 1871, the name was changed to Connoquenessing. The Postmasters have been Thomas CRITCHELOW, Hugh STEVENSON, William S. MCKINNEY and Jacob FRY.

Buttercup Post Office, in the eastern part of the township, was established in 1880, by J. N. STEVENSON, Postmaster.


No early records of this organization are to be found. According to the best information, now attainable, the Mount Nebo Presbyterian Church was organized in 1805. The meetings were first held in the grove near where the old church stood. Next, a tent was erected as a shelter for the worshipers, and a rudely contrived pulpit for the preacher. In 1809 or 1810, a log church, about thirty feet square, was erected. The logs were hewed;the floor and pulpit were made of boards - articles rarely used in the construction of houses at that date. Each family furnished a bench for a seat. The early meetings were attended by fully a third of all the Presbyterian people then in Butler County; nearly a score of churches now stand within the territory from which the worshipers came. Not many years after the organization of the church, a difference of opinion arose between members of this congregation and the pastor as to the adoption of Watt's version of the Psalms in lieu of the old version. The minister and one of his Elders favored the new psalter [sic]; it was adopted and a portion of the congregation became estranged. The result was the formation of the White Oak Spring Church. Among the early members of the Mount Nebo Church were the EKINs, BOLTONs, DODDSes, SHANNONs, HAYSes, GRAHAMs, GIBSONs, WHITEs, MCLUREs, MARTINs, SPEARs, MORRISONs, AMBERSONs [sic], BOGGSes and others. Seven boards of Elders have served in this church since its organization, as follows:
1. James PLUMMER, Joseph MCFERRIN.
2. Israel GIBSON, Robert HAYS, John DICK.
3. James WELSH, Thomas CRATTY, John BRANDON, James SCOTT.
4. T. H. BRACKEN, John MARTIN, Robert HAYS.
5. James ANDERSON, James BRANDON, Bryson BLACK.
7. John CRATTY, Dr. W. N. CLARK, John M. MARTIN.

The first pastor, Rev. Reed BRACKEN, was born in 1778; installed as pastor in 1808, and died in 1849. He was a man of ability and scholarship, though by no means an eloquent speaker. His earnestness and his faithful work cause his memory to be greatly revered. His pastorate was thirty-seven years. Rev. Lemuel F. LEEK, installed in 1845, remained three years; he died in 1866. Rev. Alexander CUNNINGHAM, installed in 1854, was pastor eight years; he died in 1874. Rev. William HARBISON, installed in 1862, served four years; he died in 1870. Rev. Samuel L. JOHNSON, installed in 1870, was the last pastor. He was dismissed and went to Kansas in 1882.

The church now numbers about one hundred members. Mount Nebo Church is the parent of all the Presbyterian Churches in the western part of Butler County.

The present church of brick was erected in 1859. The log house, already mentioned, was occupied until the stone church, which stood in the old graveyard was built, in 1834-35. Over eight hundred internments have been made in the old cemetery between 1801 and 1882. There are many nameless graves, many with stones uninscribed, or with inscriptions which time has rendered illegible. Rough stones from creek beds were used as headstones in early times, and now stand side by side with costly marble monuments - solemn reminders of earthly mutations. The oldest stone in the yard is inscribed with the date September 2, 1814, but bears no name. It marks a child's grave. The oldest legible inscription is as follows: "Here lies the body of Mary A. THOMPSON, who departed this life September 13, 1814, aged thirty-five years." Other early dates are: Thomas SCOTT, died 1817, aged sixty-two; John SCOTT, 1819; Clemency SCOTT, 1819; William DODDS, 1818.


The earliest meetings of believers of the doctrine of the Associate Reformed Church in the western part of the county were held in this neighborhood, and the White Oak Spring Church may be classed as the parent of all the U. P. Churches of this part of Butler County. When or where services were first held, we have no means of knowing; but we have the testimony of old members that a baptism was performed in William AYRES' barn, in the eastern part of the township, in 1815. Meetings were held with more or less regularity, in groves, cabins and barns, until 1818, when Rev. Isaiah NIBLOCK became the preacher and effected the organization of a church. He served

[p. 190]
as pastor until 1834 and under his ministration the church extended its influence widely and attained great prosperity. Rev. Niblock first preached in the grove near the spring, not far from the spot on which the church now stands. A tent was used as a place for public worship two years, and, in 1820, a brick church was erected.,[sic] which, in 1862, gave way to the present structure. At the first communion held at the Spring, sixteen persons partook of communion. The membership was soon greatly enlarged, so that probably fully two hundred families were represented among the communicants. Here could be seen the simple manners, the inexpensive attire, the free and unaffected simplicity of the early settlers. People came to church on horseback and on foot from a region fully twelve miles in its radius. Among the worshipers were families by the names of RAMSEY, MARTIN, DODDS, EKIN, JOHNSON, MCDONALD, MCLAIN, MCLEOD, GILLILAND, CRITCHLOW, NELLIS, MAHARG, FULTON, MCKEE, STEVENSON, ROSE, DUNN, MONTGOMERY, BRYSON, MCGINNIS, KING, RICHARDSON, PILLOW, MCKINNEY, FRAZIER, MCCLEARY, WRIGHT, FLEMING, HARRIS, EVANS, MCGREW, the pastor's father and mother and others whose names are now forgotten. The pastor divided his time between the White Oak congregation and the Butler congregation. Hugh MCKEE, Thos. DODDS and Geo. MATTHEWS were the first elders.

After Mr. NIBLOCK severed his connection with this congregation, Rev. William FINDLAY succeeded to the pastorate, in 1836, and continued his labors seventeen years. Rev. Thomas DRENNEN, the next pastor, died after a short period of labor[.] Rev. W. H. JAMISON became pastor in 1858, and continued until 1879, when he was succeeded by Rev. T. W. YOUNG, who is now in charge. The present membership is 130.


This is a German congregation which meets at Petersville. It was organized in 1865 by Rev. C. A. LIMBERG, of Butler, with a membership of about fifteen families. The first council was composed of the following members: Peter STAAF, Oswald REDER, Peter REDER, Casper NOLSHEN, Nicholas FRISEHORN and Jacob ZIEGLER. Meetings were held in the M. E. Church a short time, but, in 1865, the building now occupied was purchased and fitted up as a church. The pastors have been Revs. LANDIS, EDMONDS, and SCHEEL. The membership is now twenty-six families.


The earliest school of which we have any account was taught in a part of John BIEGLE's [sic] house, a portion of the room being divided off by a curtain that the teacher and scholars might not be disturbed by the other inmates of the house.

Nicolas M_HLEISEN and a German from the Harmony community were the teachers. For some years schools were sustained by the German families of this neighborhood - at BIEGLER's [sic], M_HLEISEN's, and subsequently in a log building, used both as a church and schoolhouse, which stood near the site of the old stone church, in Lancaster Township.

Concerning other early schools in this township, Superintendent MATTHEWS wrote as follows in 1877:

"At an early date a schoolhouse was built near the present residence of Samuel HAYS. One of the teachers who taught here was named John SANDERSON. He was a fine penman, and excelled in higher mathematics. The Rev. Reid BRACKEN preached in this house until Mount Nebo Church was built.

"A schoolhouse was erected on the present farm of John HAYS, about one mile south of the last mentioned. It was considered a good house at the time of its construction, and for many years afterward. The justice of my description of its general arrangement will be easily recognized by those who have attended school there with the writer. It was built of hewed logs. The fire-place, in the center of the house, consisted of a hearth about eight feet square. At each corner of the hearth a post stood, which braced the joist, on which a large flue, built of poles about five feet long and clay mortar, was erected. To the posts below the ceiling, boards were nailed on each side, extending downward from the ceiling about four feet. This was to convey the smoke from the hearth to the flue, if, as was often the case, the smoke would not go up the space to the chimney. It affected the pupils very unpleasantly. The roof was of oak shingles. The gable ends were never weather-boarded. The ceiling, or loft, was laid with slabs; the spaces between the slabs were daubed with mortar. The windows were of glass. The door was about like an ordinary stable door. The floor was laid with loose boards. The desks were rough boards pinned against the wall. The seats were made of puncheons, from which dangled many an aching limb, hopeless of finding rest or a resting-place. The forms were backless, on which 'many a weary urchin sat.'

"The branches taught were orthography, reading, arithmetic and writing. The teachers were John MCKENDRY, W. W. BRANDON, Robert B. WALKER, Griffith OWEN, Robert STEWART, W. G. BRACKEN, Robert MCELVAIN, Robert HAYS and James MCCANDLESS. They were all successful teachers. Some of them are still living."

Rev. Reid BRACKEN was also among the early teachers. Master SANDERSON was an Irishman, and taught that the "l's" in could, would and should, should be pronounced. SUPPLE, Matthew SPEAR, Thomas FORRESTER, Hugh STEVENSON, David MCDONALD, Thomas

[p. 191]
RANEY and others were early teachers in various neighborhoods of this township.


1840, Daniel GRAHAM; 1840, Henry UMPSTEAD; 1841, Thomas FLETCHER, Abram MOYER; (East), 1845, David SHANNON; (West) 1845, John M. GRAHAM; (East) 1846, Thomas CRATTY; (West) 1846, James S. KIRKER; (East) 1850, David SHANNON; (West) 1851, James S. KIRKER; (East) 1851 Thomas CRATTY; (West) 1851, Jered F. PHILIPS; 1855, David SHANNON; 1856, Thomas CRATTY; 1860, William S. MCKINNEY; 1861, M. F. WHITE; 1865, William S. MCKINNEY; 1866, Samuel REED; 1869, Isaiah N. GRAHAM; 1870, Jacob FRY; 1872, James MCKINNEY; 1875, Isaiah N. GRAHAM; 1876, Alex STEWART; 1877, Jacob FRY; 1881, C. A. MCKINNEY, Alexander STEWART.


The first mill within the present limits of the township was a small log grist-mill erected in 1805 by Alexander BRYSON. This ran until 1835, when the work of building the present mill on the same site was begun. The mill was completed in 1837. Alexander BRYSON disposed of the first mill to his son Richard, and from him Joseph BRYSON purchased it in 1828. He built a saw-mill there in 1831. The dam now standing, as well as the mill, was built by him. The first miller was Mark HAMMER, who had previously worked at Brinker's Mill. He came in 1831. The BRYSONs had run the mill until then. The Bryson Mill has been owned by George I. MCCANDLESS since 1878.

Henry BEIGHLE built a grist-mill and a saw-mill on Crab Run in 1811. They were not operated after his death.

David SHANNON built a saw-mill, a grist-mill and a carding-mill on the Semiconon previous to 1820, and later erected a saw-mill farther down the same stream. James WELSH tended the grist-mill for SHANNON. This was one of the best of the early mills. Grain had to be carried up two pair of stairs, as there was no elevator or other modern appliances. Robert MARTIN owned the mill afterward, having purchased it from SHANNON and William C. MARTIN tended it. The present mill on the same site was built by William ALLEN in 1849, and since his death, in 1879, has been owned by his heirs. Its capacity is fifty barrels of flour per day.

Hugh GIBSON built a small log mill on the Semiconon, about fifty-five years ago. The Hays Mill, on the same site, was built by James MCKINNEY, from whom R. S. HAYS purchased it.

Thomas MCKINNEY had a tannery at Petersville in early times, and did a large amount of work. He ground bark by rolling a large stone over it.

The manufacture of powder was carried on quite extensively in the southeastern part of the township for many years. The first powder-mill on the stream, since known as Powder Mill Run, was started by John and William PURVIANCE as early as 1810. A man named CAMPBELL had lived here previously, and had erected a small grist-mill, which was converted into a powder-mill. The PURVIANCEs conducted the business many years, making rifle powder for hunters.

Campbell PURVIANCE built a powder-mill about 1840, and conducted the business fourteen years.



*Contributed by T. H. BRACKEN.

Rev. Reid BRACKEN was born in York County, Penn., in 1778; was brought to Washington County when he was six weeks old. He was the first child baptized in Chartiers Church, and the first male child baptised west of the Alleghany [sic] Mountains. He graduated at Jefferson College in 1802, and was a member of the first class that graduated after the college was chartered; his name stands at the head of the list. In 1806, he came to Butler County, having been licensed to preach the Gospel in 1805; he received calls from Mount Nebo, in Connoquenessing Township, and Plain, in Cranberry Township. He was ordained on the 20th day of April, 1808, and preached thirty-eight years at Mount Nebo, twelve years at Plain, twelve at Middlesex, and a number of years at Portersville; one-half of his time at Mount Nebo; the other places successively. He died on the farm on which he settled (now owned by Mrs. HUMPHRY), on the 29th day of July, 1849, in the seventy-second year of his age. He was the pioneer minister in this part of Butler County. His wife (Mary GRAHAM BRACKEN) was the daughter of REV. William GRAHAM, founder of Washington College, Virginia. They had eight children; seven are yet living. He came to Butler County when it was a new country [sic] and the people poor, and, like his people, he commenced in the woods, and by the labor of his own hands cut down the forest and made for himself a farm which he cultivated to support his family. His influence did much in forming the character of the community in which he labored, and many churches were built up through his instrumentality. He stood high in the estimation of his brethren and in the Presbytery. He was a man of large stature, over six feet in height and large frame, and could endure more hardships than the ministers of our day.


Norman GRAHAM, of Connoquenessing, was born in that township May 12, 1814, and is a direct descendant of the Grahams, of the Isle of Lewis, the MCKINZIEs, and the MCLEODs - names ever familiar as well as eminently respectable, according to the annals of "Auld Scotia."

It appears that during the days when the adherents of the Roman Catholic Church were in the ascendancy in Scotland, when great numbers of Scotch protestants were either killed outright or driven beyond the limits of their native heather, a family of the GRAHAM clan found safety on the Isle of Lewis, which is the largest of a group lying off the west coast of Scotland.

On the Isle of Lewis, about the year 1749, was born Daniel, the grandfather of the present Norman GRAHAM. The former came to America in 1770, and at the conclusion of a voyage of thirteen weeks and three days' duration, made the city of Philadelphia his home. In that city he married a Miss MCKINZIE, and remained, until about the year 1783, when he moved to the neighborhood of Carlisle, Penn., where his oldest child, John was born in 1784. Others of his children were Alexander, Nancy, Catharine and Margaret. About 1794, the whole family slowly wended their way westward over the Alleghany [sic] range, and located in the vicinity of Braddock's Field; but that proved to be only a halting place, however, for, in 1796, all again removed to the Connoquenessing settlement in Allegheny County, or the region now embraced by the townships of Connoquenessing in Butler County. This has been the home of this branch of the family since, and here Daniel GRAHAM, formerly of the Isle of Lewis, died in 1839, at the great age of about ninety years.

As before mentioned, John the oldest child of Daniel GRAHAM, was born near Carlisle, Penn., in 1784, while his wife - formerly Miss Mary MCLEOD - was born near the same place in 1785. The former died in Connoquenessing in 1827; the latter in the same township August 1, 1867. Their children were Norman (the subject of this memoir), who was born May 12, 1814; Jane, now a resident of Michigan; Nancy, deceased; Daniel; Mary Ann, deceased; and Alexander.

After passing through the various vicissitudes incidental to boyhood life in a new country, working on the farm throughout the year, except for a period from six to eight weeks each winter, when the typical log schoolhouse was visited between "chores" and the rudiments of the "three R's" learned, Norman GRAHAM attained to years of manhood; yet he did not take unto himself a wife until June 28, 1849, when he married Miss Elizabeth L. WITTY, of Pittsburgh, born in 1830. She died August 31, 1881. They were the parents of nine children, two of whom died in infancy. Those living are William W., Norman Mcl., Robert H., James D., George M., Millenora and Edward H., all of whom are at home, or in the immediate vicinity, except Norman McL. and James D., who are residents of Colorado. The brothers of Norman GRAHAM, Daniel, who served in the army four years during the war of the rebellion, and Alexander, also reside with him, upon his well-cultivated farm of two hundred and forty acres.

We add, in conclusion, that for generations the GRAHAMs have been known as farmers and good citizens. Never seeking office, yet, stanch supporters of law and order. They are Republicans. In Scotland they were Seceders and Covenanters. In America, they have been members of the United Presbyterian organization, of the White Oak Springs Church more particularly, which was organized by Rev. Dr. NIBLOCK about the beginning of this century.


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Chapter 18--Butler Township
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Edited 29 Nov 1999, 22:47