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History of Butler County Pennsylvania - 1883

Chapter 36 -- Centre Township

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Transcribed by Karen Patterson. For an explanation and caution about this transcription, please read this page.



Illustrations And Biographies In Chapter XXXVI

p.336a-- Josiah & Mrs. McCandless
p.336a-- Josiah McCandless Bio
p.336b-- Res. of Josiah McCandless
p.344a-- Res. W.C. McCandless
p.344 -- William McCandless Bio
p.340a-- Shaners and R.M. Russel
p.345 -- R.M. Russel Bio
p.345 -- Daniel Shaner Bio



[p. 336]

CENTRE TOWNSHIP, as its name would indicate, is located in the center of Butler County, and derives its name from this fact. It is bounded by Clay on the north, Butler on the south, and Oakland and Franklin Townships on the east and west respectively. This is one of the original townships erected in 1804, when the county was divided into thirteen townships, its dimensions then being eight miles square. Upon the re-organization of the townships of the county in 1854, Centre was reduced to its present dimensions. The surface of this township is quite rolling in the southern portion, but is all tillable, while in the northern part it is more level, and is accordingly more easily cultivated; agriculture is the principal industry of its inhabitants, who are a most thriving, industrious people.

The soil is generally of clay, in the lower valley, however, and along the streams it is of an alluvial character: In other places, limited quantities of a gravelly loam can be found. Generous crops of wheat, corn, oats, rye and potatoes are produced, and bountiful crops of timothy hay, which forms quite an important product.

As regards mineral products, this township is well supplied with large quantities of bituminous coal which, although it underlies the greater, if not the entire portion of the township, has only been mined for home consumption, except in limited quantities, owing to the lack of convenient means of transportation. There are three veins of coal in the township. On J. CAMPBELL's farm is found a vein about four feet thick, locally known as the "mud vein," because of its being separated in the center by about one foot of mud. One stratum is four feet in thickness on the E. D. EAGEL and HECK farms. All of these veins can be worked from the surface at the places designated. The coal has been tested, and found excellent for manufacturing purposes, small quantities having been shipped to Youngstown, Ohio. On the farm of W.C. MCCANDLESS, some twenty feet under the surface, has been discovered a six-foot vein of cannel coal of superior quality, which will no doubt some day yield large returns to the owner.

The first settlements in Centre were made about 1796. The initial events in its history are legendary, as are the names of those who were first to establish homes within its present boundaries. The following account, however, is believed to be essentially correct, and was gleaned from interviews with one of the oldest families in the township. In the year above mentioned, a party of young men, sixty in number, from Allegheny, Westmoreland, Juniata and Cumberland Counties, came into the township for the purpose of making permanent settlement. So many years having elapsed, it is impossible to give the details of their efforts, or but a fragmentary list of their names. Among the number, however, was William and David MCJUNKIN, John, Robert, George, James and two William MCCANDLESSES, three brothers, Anthony, James and Moses THOMPSON, also three other brothers by the name of THOMPSON belonging to another family, viz, Matthew, James and John (James, who was a saddler, ultimately settled in the borough of Butler), Archibald St. CLAIR, Henry BAUMGARTNER, Adam and Jacob RUDEBAUGH, Valen- [p.337] tine WHITEHEAD, Christian FLEEGER, John BYERS, Lewis WILSON, Aaron MOORE and his sons Alexander, Robert and James, George and William (these latter settled in what is now Franklin Township) Joseph MCGREW, Archibald FRYER, William FREEMAN, David WRIGHT, William ELLIOTT, Samuel COOK, John GALBRAITH, Isaac CURRY, James HOGE, Thomas MCCLEERY, Daniel MCKISSICK, John and Samuel CUNNINGHAM (who stopped in the borough of Butler) John and Robert SCOTT. Also the following, who settled in what is now Franklin Township: Lewis WILSON also two of the William MCCANDLESSES, Henry MONTEITH, Eliakim ANDERSON, Charles SULLIVAN. As each was desirous of obtaining the best location, a happy plan was proposed and adopted by all which would forever settle all disputes between them regarding rights of ownership, priority of claim, etc.

They selected all the available and desirable sites and united in erecting cabins thereon. Each of these cabins were then named, some of the names being - Stony Hollow, Hickory, Eden, New Garden, Hermitage, The Glen, etc., and strips of papers bearing the various names of the cabins were placed in a hat, and then drawn out by each in turn the name designating the cabin. This entitled the fortunate or unfortunate possessor to the cabin and the land that surrounded. The farms being unsurveyed at this time, it was further agreed that if, when the lines were run, two parties should occupy the same tract, each of which was to contain 400 acres, the one farthest north should relinquish his claim and take the farm north, that being unsettled and this compact was faithfully carried out. The year subsequent to their settlement, they were attacked by the Indians, and all, or nearly all, fled the country and returned to their former habitation. The year following, the Indian troubles having been settled, many of them returned and commenced life again in the wilderness; some, however, had their love of frontier life thoroughly satiated, and never returned; still others, after a space of one, two or three years, returned to their home in the woods, which had been sacredly respected by emigrants. Probably no one family were more prominent in the early settlement of the township than that of David MCJUNKIN, who settled here in the autumn of 1796. David MCJUNKIN served as a soldier during the war of 1812-14. He was born in Ireland in 1778, and came to America when six years of age, with this father, William MCJUNKIN, who located in Plum Township, Allegheny Co., Penn. William MCJUNKIN reared a family of three sons - William, James and David - and six daughters. One son of the family, David, made this county his home.

When eighteen years of age, David, accompanied by his brother William, came to Centre Township and each located 400 acres of land, and moved into their little cabins, and commenced the life of pioneers. The succeeding spring, William was so dissatisfied with his pioneer experiences that he return home and remained there, but succeeded, though the assistance of David, in getting some one to represent him on his lands until he came in possession by right of settlement.

David was a man of great physical strength and resolute will, therefore not easily discouraged, and setting manfully about the laborious task of clearing and tilling his farm, he became one of the largest and most extensive farmers in the township and county.

In the early days many prosperous farmers engaged in the business of distilling whisky, and David built a distillery for this purpose, but being a man of strong religious convictions, and becoming convinced that the business was prejudicial to the best interest of the people, he abandoned the enterprise. He, however, engaged very extensively in tanning leather and saddlery, and erected one of the early and most extensive tanneries on his farm in the county, and conducted this enterprise very successfully for many years, its immediate supervision ultimately falling under the control of his son William.

About 1821, Dr. John THOMPSON came from New Lisbon, Ohio, purchased an extensive tract of land in Slippery Rock Township, and engaged very extensively in manufacturing enterprises. He erected a saw and grist mill, iron furnace, foundry and carding machine. (A more extended description of these enterprises will be found in the history of Slippery Rock). About 1829, THOMPSON became seriously involved, and his property, which was sold at Sheriff sale, was purchased by David MCJUNKIN for about one-fourth its original cost. The business was immediately placed on a paying basis, and the furnace conducted until scarcity of iron ore and timber for charcoal, with which it was run, rendered it unprofitable. The year following his location in Centre Township, Mr. MCJUNKIN wended his way on foot, following a bridle path to the cabin of Aaron MOORE, and was there married to his daughter, Elizabeth, and together they walked back to their future home. The simple marriage supper, which consisted principally of cornbread baked on a stone hearth by the fire-place, was prepared by Mr. MCJUNKIN, who desired to show his bride his skill in the culinary art, acquired while keeping bachelor's hall. They were blessed with children as follows: William, who died in infancy, and another son named William, who resided as a farmer on the old farm until his death. He was at [p.338] one time a Colonel in the State Militia. Alexander M., who graduated at Jefferson College, and then studied theology at the Western Theological Seminary, and after graduating preached in various places, including Butler. He ultimately removed to Ft. Wayne, Ind., where he started an academy, and died in 1852; Josiah, who is a farmer and miller in Mercer County; Isaiah, another son, graduated the Jefferson College, also at a medical college in Louisville, Ky., and practiced in Butler Borough from 1844 to 1860, but finally left an extensive and lucrative practice for a broader field in Chicago, Ill., where he died in 1864 or 1865; Ebenezer, the present President Judge of the county, was also a graduate of Jefferson College. They also had three daughters - Sarah A., now the wife of Rev. William MCMICHAEL, who is a prominent Presbyterian minister in Clarion County; Mary E., now the widow of Dr. O.D. PALMER, who formerly practiced at Zelienople, and afterward moved to Jackson County, Ill. and died; Susan now the widow of David MCCANDLESS, who resides in Kansas with her children.

David MCJUNKIN died in April, 1844, and his widow in October of the year following. He was a most exemplary and highly respected man and a prominent member of the Presbyterian Church.

In 1796, John THOMPSON, the progenitor of the THOMPSON family in this county, came from Chartiers Creek, Allegheny County, and settled on a 500-acre tract, one mile north of Muddy Creek, on what is now known as the Erie pike. With him came his family, consisting of his wife ( Martha HUMES) and eleven children - William H., John H., Robert W., Thomas C., Humes, James, Jane, Margaret, Elizabeth, Martha and Mary. He was a typical pioneer, of powerful physique, hardy and resolute, and of more than ordinary intelligence. He became one of the prominent characters in the history of the township, where he resided until his decease, which occurred in 1845. His wife survived him several years. William H., the eldest of the family, married Jane MCCANDLESS in 1828. Her father was one of the five MCCANDLESS brothers who were so prominently identified with the history of Centre. He was the first Sheriff of Butler County, and deceased about 1812. He reared three sons - John M., William G., and Solomon R., William G. and John M. studied law, the former with William TREMBLIN, the latter with Samuel A. PURVIANCE. William G. removed to Marion, Iowa He served his country as Colonel of the Twentieth Regiment Iowa Infantry. Afterward he represented his district in the Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh Congresses. Solomon R. resides on a part of the farm acquired by his grandfather.

John H. (son of John) married Miss Jane MCCANDLESS. He died many years ago. He had one son and five daughters. Thomas C. married Miss Sarah MCKINNEY, and resides in Sunbury, and is the only son now living. Robert W. married Miss Frances Black and reared a family of six children. Humes married Catherine SNYDER. James, Miss Sarah Ann PATTERSON. He died about 1862.

The name, MCCANDLESS, has been prominent on Butler County records from the organization of the county. The progenitor of the MCCANDLESSES was John MCCANDLESS, who emigrated from Ireland and located at a very early date in what is now Plum Township, Allegheny County. Four of his sons - John, George, James and William - were pioneer settlers of Centre Township, and their names are closely linked with its history, while their descendants, numerous and respectable, play a prominent part in the affairs of to-day. John, the oldest of the four brothers, was the first Sheriff of Butler County. He died in 1810, and his farm is now owned by John M. Brown, Jr. His wife was Mary A. SMITH, who bore six children - Mary (TURNER), still living; Jane THOMPSON, the mother of Col. THOMPSON of Butler; Elizabeth; Nancy (PATTERSON); John S. and George.

George MCCANDLESS, son of John, Sr., came to America before his father, and followed up an Indian trail to this township before the advent of his brothers. Having cleared a small piece of land and finding himself out of provisions, he was obliged to walk back to Westmoreland (now Allegheny County) to obtain supplies. He married Mary FISH, and as the two were coming to their new home they found their camp surrounded by wolves. This so frightened Mrs. MCCANDLESS that she prayed for death rather than edure a life in the woods with such surroundings. Three daughters of George MCCANDLESS survive - Mary A. (PORTER), now living with her son-in-law, Rev. S. WILLIAMS; Elizabeth (PORTER) who resides in West Virginia; Keziah, now Mrs. Aaron MCCANDLESS, Centre Township. John, the oldest son of George and Mary MCCANDLESS, was born in Centre Township, August 24, 1798, and was the first white male child born in the township.* He died in 1860. His wife was Jemima SULLIVAN, who died in 1881. Of their living children, George S. is a merchant in Newcastle; Susannah (MCCANDLESS) resides in Parkersburg, W. Va.; Polly (Mrs. George MCCANDLESS) Cherry Township; Mary A. (MCKISSICK), Clay township; Charles, a prominent attorney in Butler; Keziah, the widow of R. M. RUSSEL, Centre Township; and Elizabeth C., in Iowa. One son, Samuel K., was a private in the Sixth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, and died in the service in October, [p.339] 1864. James, the third son of John MCCANDLESS, was married to Margaret MOORE. He died in 1840, she in 1847. Four of their children are living - J.M., who occupies a part of the old homestead; Aaron M., a farmer in this township; Elizabeth, in Illinois; and George, in Butler. J.M. MCCANDLESS is now seventy-eight years of age, and possesses a vivid recollection of early events. To him the historian is indebted for much valuable information. Mr. MCCANDLESS was a Justice of the Peace ten years. The barn on his farm, erected in 1828, was the first frame building in the township.
*Mrs. Elizabeth TURK, daughter of the John MCCANDLESS previously mentioned, was the first female child born in the township.

William, the fourth son of John MCCANDLESS, was born in Ireland in 1777. He died in 1850. In 1801, he married Nancy FISH. She was born in 1783 and died in 1871. To them were born eleven children, five of whom are dead. Dr. Josiah MCCANDLESS, one of the sons, died in 1875. (See medical chapter.) Of the survivors, Nathan F., born in 1803, is one of the oldest residents. He resides upon a farm which was settled very early, and christened "The Garden." Jane (THOMPSON), Brady Township; Nancy is Mrs. J.M. MCCANDLESS; Anderson and William C. reside in this township; Jemima (RODGERS) in Lawrence County.

Benjamin WALLACE, who was of Scotch-Irish descent, came from Ireland in 1793, when a young man, and settled in Franklin County and was there engaged in distilling whisky at the time of the historic whisky insurrection. He, however, submitted to the tax and did not flee the country, as did many.

In the spring of 1802, he disposed of his property and emigrated to Butler County, and settled on the farm now owned by W.P. SMITH, 100 acres of which were purchased of Stephen LOWREY at $3 per acre. With William came his brother Robert, who settled in 1797 on the farm now owned by George BLACK. He carried four apple trees on his back from Westmoreland County and planted them on his farm. They were probably the first fruit trees in the township; two of them are still standing. Benjamin WALLACE died in 1852, having reached the advanced age of eighty years. He was a man of sterling worth, and of more than ordinary ability. He took an active interest in educational affairs and the first schoolhouse in the township was erected on his farm in 1803. He doubtless erected the first frame dwelling in the township. He was a prominent Episcopalian, and assisted in establishing the church of this denomination in the borough of Butler. He was the father of nine children, none of whom are now living. One of his daughters (Agnes) married Adam C. SMITH, and it is their son (W.P.) above mentioned who occupies the farm. Adam C. SMITH was born in Rockingham County, Va., in 1792, and came with his father (Thomas) in 1796, and settled in Bonnie Brook, Summit Township, which at that time contained but three other families. In 1818, he removed to Indiana and there died. Adam C. returned in 1830, and located on the WALLACE farm, and lived here until his death in 1867, his wife's death occurring in 1864. Of their family, John and Harvey are in Missouri. W.P., J. BOON and a sister Margaret reside on the old homestead. Benjamin is in Illinois, and Milton is dead. For twenty-three years, W.P. was the successful foundry manager for the Brady Bend Iron works, in Armstrong County.

James ALLISON, one of the original settlers, located on the farm now owned by Oliver THOMPSON. Of his five children, only one, Robert, is living. He is in the eighty-third year, and resides on a portion of his father's farm with his son, John N. His other children are Nancy M., and Mary E., in Concord Township; Lydia E., in Clay; William and Sarah E., in Centre; while James, Martha J., Permelia and Thomas C. are deceased, the latter dying in the army. Mr. ALLISON recalls the time when wooden plows were exclusively used. At first, they were very rude affairs, and a man skilled in their manufacture could make one a four days. He split 400 rails for a neighbor to manufacture one for him, which was destroyed by a tree falling on it, thus necessitating the splitting of 400 additional rails for another. About forty-five years ago, the iron mold board was brought into use, and later the iron plow. Grain was reaped with a sickle, a long, laborious task, and the first innovation he remembers on this time-honored instrument was made by William ALLISON. He attached a scythe and some fingers to a crooked stick. He left the other workmen far in the rear, an soon thereafter the more modern cradle supplanted the sickle. Robert ALLISON erected the first frame barn in his neighborhood, which is still standing. Aaron MOORE, a native of Scotland, settled in Butler County in 1796 with three sons - David, James and William The latter lived here until his death. He had quite a family of girls, and their advent was gladly welcomed by the young men who desired wives, and there was quite a rivalry between them as to who should become the favored suitors. Margaret married James MCCANDLESS; Sarah, John TURK; Nancy, Matthew THOMPSON; and Elizabeth, David MCJUNKIN.

At this time wild game of all kinds, and wolves and bears were numerous. The latter were especially troublesome, necessitating the inclosure of sheep each night. Many of the necessaries of life, including salt, were brought on pack horses. The costume of the men at this time, made them appear more like brigands than a peaceful people engaged in agriculture, for the loose fitting blouse was encircled at [p.340] at the waste [sic] with a belt, in which was sticking a knife in a most suspicious looking manner. His feet were encased in moccasins; over his shoulder was slung the long barreled flint-lock musket, while by his side dangled his powder-horn, which completed an outfit as striking as it was convenient and necessary. Pone (corn bread) baked on a stone heated in the open fire-place, and venison, with palatable flesh of the wild turkey, comprised in a large measure the bill of fare of the pioneers; but as they labored hard, it was eaten with a relish, and the simple fare was productive of good health and longevity.

Among the settlers of 1797 were Nathaniel and Mary (ALLEN) STEVENSON, who came from Westmoreland County. Mr. STEVENSON had been a soldier in the Revolutionary war. His wife was a great spinner, and noted through the settlement for the great quantity and fine quality of her work. Mr. STEVENSON lived to be eighty-six years of age, and his wife attained the age of one hundred years six months and seven days, dying in 1852. Their two oldest children are deceased; Nathaniel lives in Franklin Township; James, in Indiana; Mary, a widow of John ROSE, with her son-in-law, William STOOPS, in Butler Township; and Sarah, in Wampum.

John MCCLEARY was one of the early settlers, and is believed to have arrived in 1797. He brought with him his wife and family, and they made their home in the southern part of the township, on land now owned by J.B. and W. CAMPBELL, of Butler. A son, Squire Thomas MCCLEARY, a prominent man in the northern part of the township, died within the last few years. One of the daughters of John MCCLEARY married Abraham Markle NEYMAN, and was the mother of Dr. NEYMAN, of Butler.

John ROSE was a settler of the year 1800. He emigrated from New Jersey when a young man, and, obtaining land in this township, followed farming the remainder of his life. He married Mary STEVENSON, who survives him. His death occurred in 1866, at the age of eighty-six years. A daughter resides Butler Township, the wife of William STOOPS.

Archibald ST. CLAIR, of Irish birth, settled one mile west of Unionville, about the year 1801. His children were John, Robert, Joseph, Archibald, Margaret (HOAG), Jane (MCDAVITT), Mary (THOMPSON), Rachel (MATTHEWS), Elizabeth (McMichael). Mrs. HOAG is the only survivor. Robert ST. CLAIR married Eleanor WRIGHT, and lived on the old WRIGHT homestead.

About 1803, David WRIGHT, a native of Ireland, moved from the vicinity of Baltimore, and settled where Robert ST. CLAIR now lives. He was the father of the following children; Samuel, Margaret (STEVENSON), Nancy and Sarah. None are now living. Samuel was an 1812 soldier.

James and Catherine (DOUBLE) GORDON settled in this township quite early. Names of their children - Isabel (HAMILTON), Jane, deceased; Betsey (AGGAS), deceased; Nancy (BROWN), Margaret (WASSON), Mary (RYDER), Rebecca (MCCALL), Maria (PERRY), William and James.

Andrew DUNN and family settled in this township in 1829. There were five children in the family, four of whom are living - Catherine (SMITH), dead, Martha M. (JONES), Elizabeth (BRACKNEY), Sarah J. (ALBERT) and James M.; Andrew DUNN died in Franklin Township in 1881, aged eighty. He came to this county from Huntingdon County.

William CHRISTIE, who was born in Ireland in 1765, came to this county when a boy, and on reaching maturity left Westmoreland County in 1800, and settled at the head-waters of the Connoquenessing Creek, in what is now Concord Township; about twenty years later, he returned to the county from whence he came, but subsequently returned to Butler County and lived with his son (John) on the old farm until his death in 1848. His family consisted of Betsey, John, Robert and William.

Some time during the Revolutionary war, William, accompanied by an older brother, had their horses shot from under them by the Indians while taking them to pasture. William was captured, and his life spared, and was finally sold to the British; his brother essayed to escape, but was caught in the woods and scalped. John CHRISTIE, who died in 1861, in his sixty-sixth year, and his wife Margaret (GUTHRIE) who died in 1872, were the parents of nine children - Mary, John G., Eliza, Nancy, Eleanor, Oliver M., and William A., who now lives on a tract of land purchased of John KIRK. He, and his wife, Sarah J. (MCJUNKIN) have a family of four children now living. Although devoting the major portion of his attention to farming, Mr. CHRISTIE has served as County Commissioner three years.

As has been noticed, John GALBRAITH was among the early settlers. He was a man of liberal education, but had the misfortune to lose his eyesight before coming here. He was accompanied by three sons - Alexander, James and John, Jr. The latter son was largely educated by his father. He studied law in Butler Borough, and there established the first newspaper in the county called the Butler Palladium and Republican Star. He sold out to Morris and John BREDIN. He then went to Venango County, and established a paper, but ultimately removed to Erie, became a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and was twice sent to Congress. A female slave [p.341] brought in by the family was liberated by the emancipation act of that early period, and upon the death of his brother, Alexander, the Judge took her to Erie and provided for her until her death.

The name of David WRIGHT appeared among the first settlers. His death occurred in 1823; the farm is now owned by his grandson, Robert ST. CLAIR, with whom his sister Margaret resides. Robert's father, also named Robert, purchased it of his father-in-law, David WRIGHT, so the property has been in the family ever since its purchase, in 1804, of Philip and Peter FRYER, at what then seemed an extravagant price $8 per acre.

Robert ST. CLAIR, Sr., was the second son of Archibald ST. CLAIR, previously noticed.

Henry EVANS, was a Colonel in the war of 1812, moved into the county about 1800, and was quite a prominent man, filling the office of Sheriff. He died in 1850, in his seventy-fifth year; his children were John, A.M., George W., Hiram J., Permelia, Margaret A., Lydia, Jane, and are all dead except Hiram, who lives in Mercer County. Ann Eliza, widow of A. M., lives with her son Walter EVANS, on the farm she and her husband commenced to improve in 1838, when, with the exception of a small garden spot, it was wilderness. Their worldly possessions then consisted of a horse and cow. Two other children of A.M. are now living - Samuel in Venango County, and Valoria, now Mrs. PURVIS, in Butler.

The name of Adam SHANER must not be omitted from the list of old settlers. He came to Butler County from Westmoreland County in 1797 or 1798, and settled in Butler Township, but soon moved in what now constitutes Centre, purchased the settler's right of Frank KARNS to 165 acres of land, which assignment is acknowledged in the deed given him in 1812, by Stephen LOWREY - consideration, $1. In those early days, almost without exception, everybody drank whisky, and it was considered a breach of etiquette not to offer it to guests. A large number erected small stills on their farms, and among the number Adam SHANER. Of his family of eight children, only one, Mrs. BALPH, in Allegheny City, survives; one of his sons, Jacob, purchased the homestead and lived there until his death in 1873, at the advanced age of eighty-four years. He reared a family of eight children, two of whom - Simon and Jacob , are in Oregon; Catharine, in Allegheny City; Henry, in California; John, Barbara and Adam, deceased. The only representative of the family the county is Daniel, who owns the homestead, and is a quiet, industrious farmer.

John IRWIN, a native of Ireland, when about fifteen years of age, accompanied his parents to Westmoreland County. In 1827, he came to his county and located in Cherry Township, and there resided until his death in 1843. One of his children, Samuel, is now a farmer in Centre Township, owning land which was settled by George MCCANDLESS. One of the first frame barns was built on this farm, and is still standing.

Enoch VARNUM emigrated from England, and during the Revolutionary war took up arms in behalf his adopted country, and during the unfortunate battle of Gen. ST. CLAIR against the Indians was seriously wounded in the shoulder, and thus incapacitated him for manual labor. He settled in Washington Township, where he died in his ninetieth year. His son William occupies the old homestead. Three of his children grew to maturity - Philip, William and Catharine. Philip died in Wisconsin in 1855. He was twice married, first to Mary LAHY, by who he had seven children, viz; William, Hannah, Sarah, Enoch L., Harriet, Catharine and Mary. One son, Enoch L., is a prominent farmer of this township, and the owner of a portion of the David MCJUNKIN farm. He married Elvina, daughter of William MCJUNKIN. As this farm was owned by her grandfather and father, she is one of the third generation to make it her home. They are the parents of six children now living, viz: Clara (Mrs. C.B. THOMPSON); William L. (an Ensign in the U.S. Navy) George W, (on the homestead), Edwin H. (in Kansas) and Mary J. and J. Heber at home.

John EAGEL came from Allegheny City, and located in Centerville, where he followed his trade - that of chair-maker-until his death in 1864; one of his sons, E.D. Eagal, now lives on the farm settled by Robert CURRY. During the rebellion, he enlisted, August 15, 1862, in Company I, One Hundred and Forty-second Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, and was discharged in 1865 at the end of the war. He was at the surrender of LEE and his army , and helped take the first outpost when they assaulted him.

When about nine years of age, R.M. RUSSELL accompanied his father to Centre Township. He was one of those who valiantly served his country as a soldier during the rebellion His death, which occurred July 8, 1882, was a loss to the community, where he was much esteemed. His widow resides on the farm given her husband by his grandfather, R. M. MCCANDLESS.

Samuel N. MOORE, in 1824, when about twenty years of age, moved to Washington Township, and purchased, at $1.25 per acre, a tract of wild land, and endured many privations and hardships in clearing and developing it. He was one of the early school teachers, and taught winters from 1820 to 1844, at first receiving about $12 per month, which [p.342] was mostly paid in grain. He died in August, 1871, in his sixty-seventh year. His wife, Mary (CHRISTIE), lives with her son J.R., on the old homestead.

Of their living children, James R. and Mary Jane reside in Washington Township. John C. owns part of the David MCJUNKIN farm. He is a successful oil producer. He has, unaided, accumulated a competency, and is emphatically a self-made man, active, energetic and prosperous. For thirty-five years he followed the business of school teaching winters. The other children are Samuel H., in Kansas, and Sarah A., in Brady Township. William E. enlisted in 1861 in Company E, Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, and having his right arm shot off at Chickahominy, he was discharged and came home and assisted in raising a company, of which he was made First Lieutenant, and assisted in capturing MORGAN. After being again discharged, he studied law with Judge MCJUNKIN, of Butler, and in the second year, which so engaged, was elected County Treasurer. He died October 30, 1866, while in office.

When a young man twenty-one years of age, in 1818, John HOWE accompanied his father, Henry, to Butler County. About the year 1830 or 1832, John HOWE purchased 225 acres of land in Centre Township for $1,160, and reside here until his death in 1864. Of his children, there are still living - Margaret J., John C., Mary E., Ann M., Isaiah N, Nelson, Adda and Thomas R. The latter is in possession of the homestead. His wife, Sarah J. is a daughter of David JONES, who some fifty years since settled in Franklin Township.

Isaac CURRY, a native of Ireland, was an early settler near Unionville. His children -James C., Robert, David, Isaac, Barbara, Julia Ann, Nancy and Elizabeth - are all dead except Barbara (MCMICHAEL) and Robert. The latter lived many years on the old homestead; then moved to the West.

Matthew MCCULLOUGH was an early settler in Muddy Creek Township. One of his sons, Dinwiddie, lives on the old homestead another, J.G., resides in Centre Township.

William MAXWELL came from Westmoreland County in an early day with his wife Mary, and settled on the farm now owned by his son-in-law, James KIRKPATRICK. He died in 1876, and his wife in 1875. For some time after coming, the only method of transportation was by pack-horse along bridle paths. He gave ten acres of land, which has since been sold for $1,000, for a wagon, and considered it a good bargain. His daughter, Jane and Sarah Ann, both reside on the old farm, the latter being the wife of J. KIRKPATRICK before referred to.

William Fisher and his wife Hannah (CREEKS) came from Berks County in 1834, and settled in Penn Township, and remained there until his death in 1868. The journey was performed in fourteen days. At this time the road was filled with emigrants making their way to the new country. Franklin FISHER, son of William, was then a lad seven years of age. He well remembers the journey, and the little low cabin with mud and stick chimney, puncheon floor, and greased paper which was used in lieu of window glass, that greeted them on their arrival. The schools, three and four miles distant, were found by means of blazed trees, and the rude benches, made of splitting a sapling and inserting wooden legs, where the same as those used at home in lieu of chairs. Corn bread and buckwheat cakes then formed the bill of fare. After reaching manhood, Franklin engaged in the manufacture of brick, and finally located in Butler Borough, but a few years since he removed to his fine farm in this township. He and his wife Barbara (EMERICK) are the parents of thirteen children.

Among the later settlers were Joseph BREWSTER and his wife Jane R. (DUNN). He came from Allegheny County in 1832, and purchased a tract of land and engaged in farming until his death in 1866. His widow resides on the old farm with her sons, Alexander, and his wife, Lila M. (ALBERT).

In an early day, timothy grass was unknown to the settlers, and when, in about 1816, Anthony THOMPSON raised some of this grass, it was regarded as a noxious weed by farmers, and he was censured by many. However, he sold a load of hay to Robert STEWART, and in taking it to him in the winter, to avoid the snow drifts, passed though a field belonging to James PHILLIPS, where, unfortunately, the load upset. The following spring, the seed here scattered sprang up and began to grow luxuriantly. This caused Mr. PHILLIPS no little uneasiness, and he sued Mr. THOMPSON for damages - the trial to come off before Justice of the Peace John BRACKNEY. When the day for trial arrived, the Justice was so busy in his distillery he was anxious to have the suit settled without litigation, and therefore announced that he had heard of that grass, and did not believe it injurious to the land; in fact, was of the opinion that was a good thing, and said that if the contestants would drop the matter he would "set up" the whisky, to which proposition they at once agreed.

Apples, now so plentiful, were once very scarce, and the younger children were very curious regarding them. This was particularly the case with William and the other children of David MCJUNKIN, and in answer to numerous inquiries as to when they would be ripe, Mrs. MCJUNKIN told them "when the bees swarmed." Arriving home one day, long before the apples were ripe, she was joyfully met by William, [p.343] who announced that the "bees had swarmed" and they had picked all the apples, and sure enough they had picked them all, and stored them in the house.


There are no mills of any considerable note in the township. About 1810, John NEYMAN build a gristmill and fulling-mill, and soon after a saw-mill. The property was subsequently purchased by John MCGRATH, who ran the grist-mill until his death.


The children of the pioneers were deprived of the opportunities for obtaining an education afforded those of the present generation. Schools were taught on the subscription plan, and children whose parents were unable to pay their tuition could not attend.

No one was more interested in the cause of education than William WALLACE, who was instrumental in erecting a schoolhouse on his farm, in 1803, the first one in the township. It was constructed of logs, had a wooden chimney, puncheon floor and rough slab seats but was comfortable as most of the private houses. This same year, a schoolhouse was erected on the David MCJUNKIN farm, and thus was established the first of what is now a series of five school districts, which have an average of seven months' school each year, and are attended by 296 scholars. From the humble log schoolhouses have arisen good buildings, the school property now being valued at $2,000. The average wage paid teachers is $28 per month, including board. Among the early schoolteachers can be mentioned William A. CAMPBELL, Samuel COOK, Mark SLOAN, George CARLAN, Mr. GREER and O.H. OLNEY.


A singular and terrible casualty, which is remembered by the other people throughout the county, occurred in this township is 1827. Upon the 18th of April in that year. Abraham Markle NEYMAN, who was then keeping a hotel in Butler Borough, where the Vogeley House now stands, and his brother-in-law, Parker MCCLEARY, set out in a wagon to bring home Mrs. NEYMAN and her two children, who had been visiting at the house of John NEYMAN, the children's grandfather, where is now the MCGRATH Mill. Soon after the little party started homeward, and while they were upon the hill, south of the mill, a violent storm arose, and a huge tree by the roadside was hurled crashing upon the wagon and its occupants. Abraham NEYMAN was instantly killed; a child, about three years and a half of age, received injuries from which death speedily ensued; Mrs. NEYMAN was stunned so severely that she did not recover consciousness until after husband and child has been buried, and through her long life (she died at the age of eighty-three years) suffered from her injuries, being incurably crippled. Her youngest child, at her breast when the tree fell, which killed father and brother, escaped uninjured, and now, after the lapse of over fifty-five years, is known to many of our readers as Dr. A. M. NEYMAN, of Butler. The accident caused widespread sorrow, for in that early time, although people dwelt farther apart than now, they were fully as closely knit together by the ties of sympathy.


Centre Township - 1840, John BREWSTER; 1840, John MCCANDLESS; 1844, John SUTTON; 1845, David DAVIS; 1849, Thomas C. THOMPSON; 1850, David DAVIS; 1852, William GIBSON; 1854, Nathan MCCANDLESS; 1854, R.K. HUNTER; 1857, Moses THOMPSON; 1859, John M. MCCANDLESS; 1862, Moses THOMPSON; 1864, John M. MCCANDLESS; 1867, William A. CHRISTY; 1869, Nathan F. MCCANDLESS; 1872, William A. CHRISTIE; 1874, J.C. MOORE; 1877, William Allison; 1879, J.C. MOORE; 1882, William ALLISON.


The village of Unionville, which contains less than fifty inhabitants, dates its commencement back to 1829 or 1830, when Samuel THOMPSON opened a store at this point with a small stock of goods. He continued in trade for a few years, and was succeeded by his brother James, but about three years later again resumed business. They were succeeded by David STEWART, who also conducted a tavern. About this time, BLAISDELL & CORNISH commenced business as copartners. Robert J. MCGOWAN next tried the mercantile business for a few years, and was succeeded by David and Mark MCCANDLESS. In June, 1847, Joseph COULTER, who is still in business, brought in the first large stock of goods, and commenced doing a large business. At present two others, D.C. MILLER and , W. T. CAMPBELL, are also engaged in business.

The post office which is called MCCANDLESS, was established in the winter of 1839-40, David STEWART being the Postmaster. He was succeeded by J.M. MCCANDLESS, who held the place for twenty-eight years. W.T. CAMPBELL is the present Postmaster. A post office known as Holyoke is also established in the township with H.L. YOUNG Postmaster. Mr. YOUNG also conducts a store.

The first road constructed through the township was built by the State in 1805-6, and ran from Butler to Mercer. About this time a road was constructed from Butler to Franklin.


Rev. John MCPHERRIN was the first Presbyterian preacher who officiated in Centre Township. He held [p.344] services in what were denominated "tents," which were simply log structures inclosed [sic] on three sides. In the inclosure stood the preacher, while his congregation occupied logs, stumps and other improvised seats, on the exterior, in front of him.

There are three churches in this township, all of which have been recently established.

The Holyoke United Presbyterian Church was organized August 28, 1874, by Rev. James A. CLARK, John S. FISHER, George STEPHENSON and John M. DUNN in accordance with a petition presented to Butler Presbytery. Alexander BLAIN, William ALLISON, R.R. HOON, Samuel IRWIN and J. C. MOORE were elected Elders, and John R. POLLOCK, Alexander BLAIN and William ALLISON were elected Trustees. Services were first held in Robert MILLER's barn. This same year a substantial frame church, 32x48, was constructed, at a cost of $1,378.50. The church has a membership of forty-nine, and a flourishing Sunday school of eighty scholars.

For some seven years prior to 1877, Rev. Samuel WILLIAMS, pastor of the Muddy Creek Presbyterian Church, came to Unionville every month and preached in the schoolhouse to a good congregation. It was considered advisable to erect a church edifice, and at the first meeting of record, held February 17, 1877, subscription papers were presented showing pledges to be the amount of $1,460. After several meetings had been held, a building committee, consisting of Joseph COULTER, E.D. EAGEL, E.L. VARNUM, W. H. MCCANDLESS, N.S. THOMPSON, H.C. MCCANDLESS and R. M. RUSSELL, were appointed, and they erected a frame building, 36x56 feet, at a cost of about $2,400, including furnishing. The church was organized October 30, 1877, with forty-seven members, by a committee consisting of Revs. James COULTER and J. H. MARSHALL and Elder John BINGHAM. E. D. EAGAL, J.M. DUNN and E.L. VARNUM were the first Trustees, and R.M. RUSSELL, Treasurer. Elders: N.F. MCCANDLESS, R.M. RUSSELL, N.S. THOMPSON. The house was dedicated October 18, 1879.

Rev. Samuel WILLIAMS, who officiated as pastor, was not installed until the fall of 1878. He now holds services every other week. The church has a membership of about 114, and a prosperous Sunday school of about 100 scholars.

In 1870, Elder Joseph GRIMM, of the Winebrenarian Church, commenced preaching, and in August, 1872, organized a church with a membership of twenty-five, with Andrew ALBERT, James S. JONES, as Elders; and Henry ALBERT and Ira BACON, as Deacons, In 1874, they erected a substantial frame house of worship, 34x50 feet. They now have a membership of thirty-seven, and a Sunday school connected with the church. The following pastors have officiated in succession: J. GRIMM, J.W. DAVIS, R. VANAMAN, J. GRIMM, A. R. MCCAHAN and W.H. MCELVEEN, who is the present pastor.



William MCCANDLESS came from Ireland, when a youth, with his parents, and settled near Turtle Creek, in what was then Westmoreland, but now Allegheny County, where they remained until their demise. William came to Centre Township in 1796, and located 200 acres of land where his son, William C., now resides, and made it his home until his death, February 19, 1850, in his seventy-third year, his wife's death occurring September 26, 1870, at the advanced age of eighty years. He was for many years a Deacon in the Presbyterian Church, and a most exemplary and honorable man. His was one of the first cabins erected in the township, and it was christened "The Hermitage," according to an arrangement made by the first settlers, as will appear in the township history. The name of William MCCANDLESS will ever bear honorable mention in connection with the history of this county, he being one of those honest, hard-working pioneers who acted as avant-couriers to the thousands who will follow them and reap the benefits of their hardships and privations. April 23, 1801, he married Nancy FISH, who was born in Carlisle, Penn., June 7, 1783, and was a daughter of Nathan FISH, who came in the county at an early day. Their children were: John F., born December 28, 1803; Jane C., born January 15, 1806; Nancy, born February 1, 1808; Mary A., born in May, 1810; Robert W., born November 22, 1812; Josiah, born March 6, 1816; Anderson, born May 26, 1818; Jemima, born January 16, 1820; Porter, born January 22, 1823; William C., born November 7, 1825.

William C. is numbered among the prosperous, progressive farmers of Centre Township, and resides on the parental estate, a view of which appears elsewhere. He is a man who prefers the quiet of homelife to public affairs. Politically, he is identified with the Republican party. February 2, 1865, he was married to Amelia (BINGHAM), daughter of W. S. BINGHAM, and they have been the parents of the following children: Mary A., William B., Warren F. (died September 20, 1877), Origen, Olive J. (an infant that died March 1, 1879), Florence, and an infant boy. [p. 345]


In 1797, Adam SHANER and his wife, whose maiden name was Elizabeth WHITEHEAD, came from Westmoreland County to Butler, and first located near the present site of Butler Borough; not long afterward, he removed to the farm, on part of which Daniel SHANER, his grandson, now resides. He was the father of seven children - Jacob, Catharine, Daniel, John, Susan, William and Mary, only the latter of whom survives. He was among the first to erect distilleries once so common in the county. His son Jacob, father of the subject of this biography, resided on the old farm until his death, which occurred in October, 1873, in his eighty-fourth year. He held various township offices, and served one term as County Commissioner, and did much pioneer work. He was a member of the Lutheran Church. He first married Elizabeth (HEIGHBERGER), who died in 1843, and then married Sarah (MECHLING). By his first wife had children as follows: Simon, Daniel, John, Barbara, Adam, Catharine, Jacob and Henry. Simon and Jacob are in Oregon. Henry went to California, while the others (except Catharine, who resides in Allegheny City) are deceased.

Daniel SHANER was born Mary 5, 1815. He purchased the farm on which he now resides, and has done much pioneer work in preparing it for cultivation. Mr. SHANER is not an aspirant for office, although he has held several township offices, preferring to quietly pursue his chosen vocation, farming, but has ever maintained an honorable position in the community where he resides. He and his wife, Sophia (MECHLING), to whom he was married August 2, 1852; are consistent members of the Lutheran Church.

Mrs. SHANER was born August 2, 1831, and is a daughter of William and Catharine (KUHN) MECHLING. Henry KUHN, her maternal grandfather, was a Revolutionary soldier, and participated in the battle of Bunker Hill. He settled in Venango Township in 1820. John MECHLING, her paternal grandfather, settled in what is now Washington Township in 1795. He was also a farmer and an early distiller. He and his wife, Margaret (SAAMS), became the parents of children as follows: Mary, Catharine, William, Elizabeth, John, Margaret, Joseph, Sarah, Harriet, and Esther. William was born March 15, 1798, and died in Ohio, to which State he had removed in 1853. He wife (Catherine KUHN) was born in 1797, and died in 1850, leaving the following children: George W., John, Henry K. (who was a member of the Eighteenth Battery Ohio Artillery; He enlisted August 8, 1862, and served until June, 1865) Sophia, Joseph, Newton J. (who served his country as private in Company H, One Hundred and Ninety-fourth Ohio Volunteer Infantry) Lycurgus was a member of Company A, Fifty-third Ohio Infantry; he enlisted in 1861, and at the expiration of his term of enlistment, re-enlisted. Jacob SHANER (son of Jacob SHANER) served three years in an Iowa cavalry regiment.

Mr. and Mrs. SHANER have been blessed with four children - Rev. Henry K., a Lutheran clergyman; Mary A., deceased; John J. and George H., who reside at home.


R.M. RUSSELL was born in Vendango County, Penn., August 11, 1838, and is a son of William and Elizabeth (MCCANDLESS) RUSSELL. At an early age, he removed with his parents to Butler County, where he grew to manhood's estate with no other facilities for obtaining an education than those enjoyed by other farmers' sons. He, however, improved his opportunities so that he was enabled to engage in school teaching. He nobly responded to his country's call during the war of rebellion, and was mustered into service August 31, 1864, in Company A. Sixth Regiment Heavy Artillery Pennsylvania Volunteers, for one year, and was honorably discharged June 13, 1865. He was married, November 14, 1861, to Keziah M., daughter of John and Jemima (SULLIVAN) MCCANDLESS. The fruits of their union are one son, John M., born October 21, 1863. R. M. followed his father's avocation, farming, and was engaged in this pursuit in Centre Township at the time of his death, July 8, 1882. June 20, 1863, he united with the Presbyterian Church of Muddy Creek, of which he remained a faithful and consistent member until the organization of the Presbyterian Church of Unionville, October 30, 1877, when he united with that church and was elected and ordained as Ruling Elder. He was chosen Superintendent of the Sabbath school, both of which offices he faithfully and efficiently filled until he was disabled by sickness, which terminated in his death. As a man he was faithful and sincere, kind and amiable in all his relations, which, coupled with strict honesty and integrity, won for him the esteem of his associates, so that he left behind him the legacy of a well-spent life, to which his family can point with pride.


Josiah MCCANDLESS, M.D., son of William and Nancy (FISH) MCCANDLESS, was born March 6, 1816, near the place where his life's work was accomplished.

Not being a man of robust constitution, having finished his course in the Butler Academy, he went to Ohio and engaged as clerk, but having a penchant for the medical profession, he repaired to Allegheny City, and for three years pursued a course of study with Dr. J. WHITTAKER, going to that city in 1839. He then returned to this father's house near Unionville and engaged in practice, and some ten years later moved to his residence in Unionville ( a view of which can be found on another page), where he remained until his demise, January 5, 1875. As a physician, he was a model of professional honesty, candor and faithfulness. He never flattered or deceived his patients by holding out false hopes, but dealt faithfully for the highest interest of both soul and body. With a clear and accurate judgment and a kind and sympathizing heart, he ardently devoted himself to his profession. His reputation as a successful practitioner extended farther than his physical powers of endurance warranted him in practicing, and during his long and extensive practice of about thirty-three years, he literally wore himself out in doing good to others. His noblest monument is in the grateful hearts of thousands who have been blessed by his professional skill and made happy by his kindnesses.

He early took his stand on the side of virtue and truth, and performed his full part in the improvement of society and in the establishment and perpetuation of all the institutions and appliances which enlighten, refine, elevate and bless the social state. He was characterized by the most rigid and inflexible honesty and integrity, and by an unyielding firmness in maintaining his own convictions of truth and right.

At an early age, he connected himself with the Presbyterian Church, of which he ever continued a faithful member, and without ostentation or display, was firm and unwavering in his support of the truth.

June 18, 1854, he was married to Keziah J., daughter of John S. and Martha (THOMPSON) MCCANDLESS, and she has been a most faithful consort. She was born October 5, 1832. They were blessed with ten children, of whom William C. is a practicing physician at Glade Mills, while Josiah L., Laura K. and Edith J. reside with their mother on her parental estate.

[End of Chapter 36--Center Township: History of Butler County, Pennsylvania. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Waterman, Watkins, & Co., Chicago, 1883.]

Chapter 35--Franklin Township
Chapter 37--Muddy Creek Township
1883 Butler County History Contents
Butler County Pennsylvania USGenWeb Homepage

Edited 17 Apr 2000, 09:47