The town is situated on the right bank of Redbank creek, the dividing line between Armstrong and Clarion counties, twenty miles from its mouth and on the line of the Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad. It lies on a level scope of land, evidently the product of a secondary formation, beautifully situated and large enough to contain a great city.
The land on which New Bethlehem now stands, was granted by warrant to Timothy Pickering, Samuel Hodgden, Dwaean Ingram, jr., and Tench Cox. The warrant was dated May 17, 1785, and known as No. 185, situated in Brodhead's former district, No. 6, containing 631 acres, 16 perches. Timothy Pickering, etc., above-named, conveyed the tract to William E. Hulings, by deed, dated December, 1821. Hulings on the same day conveyed said tract to Anne Wikoff, of Philadelphia, Pa.
Henry Dovenspike located on an adjoining tract belonging to the Holland Land Company in 1806, and built a log house where William Truitt lives. He purchased part of the Wikoff tract March 1, 1831, and at his death two of his heirs laid out part of the land which they inherited in town lots, the history of which is preserved by the form of deeds they had printed, and which they used in conveying the first lots. The following is a copy of the printed form:
" THIS INDENTURE MADE THE .. DAY OF ...., in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and forty-..., between George Dovenspike and Elizabeth his wife, and John Milliron, and Mary, his wife, of the township of Redbank, county of Clarion, and State of Pennsylvania of the one part, and .... of the other part: WHEREAS, The said George Dovenspike and John Milliron, by virtue of a deed of release from the heirs of Henry Dovenspike, deceased, dated October 30, A. D. 1841, and recorded in the office for recording deeds for Clarion county, became seized and possessed of a certain messuage or tract of land, situate on Redbank township, Clarion county, and bounded on the south by Redbank Creek, on the west by lands of Jacob Shankle, George Space, Gabriel Miller, John Himes, Thomas McKelvey, James Fleming and other lands of the parties of the first part, on the north by lands of G. W. Trumble, and on the east by lands of John Dovenspike, containing thirty acres, more or less. It being part of a larger tract of land, conveyed by Anne Wikoff to the said Henry Dovenspike, deceased, by deed, dated, March 1, 1831, and recorded in Armstrong county, in the office for Recording Deeds, vol. 7, pages 286 and 287. AND WHEREAS the said George Dovenspike and John Milliron have laid out a town on the aforesaid tract of land, of thirty acres, called 'NEW BETHLEHEM,' consisting of In and Out Lots, with convenient streets and alleys, -- which lots, in the general plan of said town are numbered from No. 1 to No. 70 inclusively, as by plan recorded in the recording office of Clarion county. NOW THIS INDENTURE Witnesseth," etc.
Then followed the No. of lot, consideration, etc.
Christian Himes located on a fifty acre tract of the Wikoff land that joined the original borough limits on the north, as early as 1808. He built a log house near the spring above the town. This was the first house built in the present limits of the borough. He died shortly afterward, leaving two sons, John and Joseph, who were separated and sent to live with strangers. John returned in 1838, purchased a number of acre-lots, and worked at cabinetmaking until his death. Joseph returned in 1848, purchased the old homestead and commenced farming, which he has followed to the present. A part of this farm has also been laid out in town lots. Keck's addition of town lots was made in 1871, and A. H. Allebach's in the same year.
Henry Nolf was intimately identified with the early business interests of the town. He established the first store, and built the first saw-mill as early as 1855, and the first grist-mill in 1835. The storehouse stood near where the bridge is now located, and was the second building erected. In 1833 he took Mr. Thomas McKelvy in the store and sold out to him the following year. Mr. McKelvy continued in the business until 1858, when he sold to C. E. Andrews, whom he had taken in the store as clerk in 1849. Mr. Andrews still conducts the same business, but in quite a different and more successful manner.
The second store was started by Mr. Philip Corbett. The third by Mr. A. H. Allebach. Many others have been engaged in the same business. Large store buildings have been recently erected at immense cost by the Fairmount Coal Company and by Messrs. Andrews and Craig.
The early growth of the town was very slow. The first building was put up in 1808, and in 1833 the town consisted of one log house, one frame house, one stable, and one saw-mill.
In 1834 George Space moved to the place and built a blacksmith shop. Adam Hilliard, P. H. Hoffman, Gabriel Miller, Jacob Shankle, Joseph Conger, moved to the place soon after. One after another continued to locate and build promiscuously until 1853, when a charter of incorporation was granted by Clarion County Court, creating the town into a borough. John Himes was elected burgess, and George Space, Joseph Conger, Frederick Mohney, and Joseph Himes, councilmen. The first act of the council was to correct the irregularities of the streets and alleys, and to arrange the lots in a regular plot. How well they succeeded may be known by the fact that almost every council since that time has been surveying and effecting changes for the purpose of accomplishing the same thing, and there still exist many irregularities.
Industries. -- As already stated, the first saw-mill was built by Henry Nolf in 1815. It stood where the present water-power saw-mill stands, and was a primitive affair, consisting of a single upright saw, operated by water-power. Yet it supplied a very great want of the early settlers, as it was the only mill in that section from which sawed lumber could be obtained. The fact that boards could be obtained there induced many to locate and build within reach of it. The mill was washed away by high water, but was rebuilt by Arthur O'Donell in 1850. This one was burned down and was again rebuilt, and at present is owned by Craig & Company.
C. E. Andrews built a steam saw-mill about 1860 and at the same time erected a scaffold on which to build flat-bottomed boats. These were floated to the Pittsburgh market, and used for shipping coal from Pittsburgh to places along the Ohio River. In 1862 Mr. Andrews built a planing-mill, putting in the latest improved machinery. This mill supplied the town with all the dressed lumber that was used until after the railroad was built, which was completed in 1873, since which much of the dressed lumber that has been used in building has been brought from the upper lumber districts.
The first grist-mill was built in 1835; previous to this the farmers took their grain to Hesse's mill at Maysville, which, at that time, was the only gristmill in all the country. It was a very common occurrence for twenty farmers to be at the mill at the same time, each one waiting for his "turn," when, with a few pounds of flour, he would go home, only to return in a day or two to have the same thing repeated. Henry Nolf conveyed the mill to Peter Schlotterbeck, who afterwards sold it to Jacob Shankle. Mr. Shankle operated the mill for several years and then sold it to A. B. Paine. Mr. Paine being interested in some timber land in Jefferson county, sold the mill to Messrs. Cooper & Williams before moving there. Cooper & Williams conveyed their entire mill interests, and several other properties to Craig & Co. The firm of Craig & Co. having a long experience in manufacturing by water-power, being owners and operators of several flouring and woolen mills in the county and in Allegheny City, foresaw the excellent water-power and shipping advantages furnished by Redbank Creek and the railroad at this point, and therefore moved to the place immediately after purchasing the old grist-mill and water right. They immediately repaired the old grist-mill, putting in new machinery, and thereby greatly increased its capacity. In 1872 they purchased of W. R. Hamilton, a mill seat on the Armstrong county side, and in 1873 erected one of the finest and best equipped flouring-mills in Western Pennsylvania. By the aid of the new machinery, which was purchased in New York city, they were able to manufacture a finer grade of flour than had ever reached the town from the city mills. The mills has been kept running day and night, almost constantly, since its erection.
A foundry was built by Fulton & Jones in 1837. It was afterwards conveyed to Philip Corbett, who sold it to C. R. McNutt & Son, and was purchased by John Hilliard in 1868. Mr. Hilliard sold it to W. R. Hamilton & Son, the present owners, in 1872. They have added to it a machine shop for manufacturing plows and threshing-machines, and a hardware store. The whole business is superintended by S. W. Hamilton.
Redbank Creek has been the "Gift of the Nile" to the settlers of New Bethlehem, not in the benefits derived from its inundations -- for it has many -- but from its transporting power. By the act of Assembly, of March 21, 1798, "Redbank Creek" was declared to be a public stream, "from the mouth to the second or great fork," the place where what is now known as North Fork empties into it. This stream was first used for the transportation of lumber in 1806 by Joseph Barnett, of Jefferson county. The first lumber floated down the stream was a timber raft belonging to Messrs. Barnett and Scott, consisting of a single platform, and was propelled and directed by poles instead of oars. The "pilot," hands, and entire crew was a Mr. Clark. For many years the stream was rough, difficult, and dangerous on which to raft. Mr. Lewis Dovenspike tells of a high flood in the stream in 1806, that covered the flat where Fairmount is, to the depth of ten feet. On October 8, 1847, the stream rose to height of twenty-one feet at New Bethlehem dam. Nearly all the bridges, and Hesse's, Knapp's and Robinson's mills and mill dams were swept away. Another great flood occurred September 28-29, 1861, the water rising to the height of twenty-two feet. Many others of less height, but fully as destructive to property, have occurred since, one in 1880, which caused one of the greatest lawsuits ever brought before Clarion courts. The citizens owning property along Bethlehem dam were greatly damaged by the ice gorging in the dam and changing the current of the stream. Amos Silvis, living near the stream, had a fine orchard, consisting of about fifty apple trees of twenty-five years' growth, every one of which was destroyed by the ice. John T. Girts and Messrs. Jones and Brinker also suffered great losses from damages done by the ice and high water.
Those damaged claimed that Craig & Company, in building the wharf that leads the water to the new mill, narrowed the vent of the dam, and by keeping a bracket on the dam in winter, increased the quantity of ice within the bend of the creek, and thereby contributed to the cause of the damage. Acting from this belief, those damaged entered into an agreement to contribute their share of the expense of bringing suit against the Craigs for damages. The first suit brought was by John T. Girts and wife. This was to be a test suit, and upon its success or failure depended the others. After repeated trials, the last one lasting nine days, the suit was decided in favor of the defendants. If all that was said of Redbank during the trial were true, it would, indeed, be difficult to write its history. In the mind of one witness it would be an Amazon, a Mississippi, a raging torrent or a cataract, in another a brook or rivulet that had often been crossed during its greatest flood on trees which extended across it at numerous places, or on the drift lodged against some stump, rock, or bank. Nearly all of those who had built on the low ground have moved their houses on higher ground, or have abandoned them and rebuilt.
Schools. -- Education received early attention by the first settlers. A pay school, as it was called, was organized in 1828 by Mr. Meredith. It consisted of four or five pupils, who attended part of the time, or as long as their money lasted, which was never more than three months in a year. Of the pioneer teachers, the following are still remembered by many of the oldest citizens: Smith Lavely, Mary Tom, Mrs. Alshouse, James Sheals, John Green, William Sloan, Mr. Vandike, Mr. and Miss Baker, Samuel Travis, Mr. Forbes, Adison Wilson, Joseph Galbreith.
The first school-house was built in 1848, and stood near where S. W. Hamilton now lives. It was a frame building sixteen by twenty feet, ten feet high, containing one room. The desks were high, and fastened to the walls. The pupils sat on high benches and faced the walls. The teachers of that day concede that the house was not a modern beauty, but contend that it was a model of convenience, and as proof called our attention to the fact that it was not necessary to call a pupil out on the floor in order to punish him with a rod. This house was afterward purchased by D. A. Hoy, who moved it on his lot on Penn street, and at present is using it as a wagon-shop.
One of the present school buildings was built by C. R. McNut, in 1855, at a cost of $2,500. At present it is old, dilapidated, and bears the marks of great service. It is wholly unbecoming a place that has kept pace with the times. It is situated in a beautiful and healthy location, away from the noise and bustle of the business part of the town. It has a large play-ground and admirable surroundings for school purposes. It is built of brick, thirty-two by fifty feet, two stories high. The ceilings are each twelve feet high. The building was purchased by Miss Tom shortly after its erection. She donated the use of the lower story to the Presbyterian congregation, in which to hold religious meetings, and attempted to organize an academical school in the upper story. The school did not prove a success, and she sold it shortly afterwards to the school board. At the time it was built it was far in advance of the other school buildings in the county. This building becoming too small to accommodate all the pupils, the school board built another in 1883. It is a frame building, thirty by sixty feet, fourteen feet high, containing two rooms. It is built on the same lot, and in close proximity to the old one.
The school is divided into five rooms, each room into three grades. Each room has a separate teacher, but the principal, who teaches room No. 5, has supervision of the entire school. The present corps of teachers is as follows: Prof. L. T. Baker, principal; Mr. U. S. Grant Henry, room No. 4; Miss Lulu Foster, room No. 3; Miss Emma Reese, room No. 2; Miss Arletta Reese, room No. 1. The school, for the last ten years, has been advancing very rapidly, and at present ranks second to none in the county. Many are the causes that may be cited for the recent advancement and excellent condition of the school. L. L. Himes took charge of the schools in 1875, and by faithful work for eight successive years, succeeded in creating a healthy educational feeling among the people. The interest manifested by the pupils during this period was unprecedented, many attending every day during the term. The most noticeable improvement in attendance was that of John and Charley Hoy, who attended six months for six successive years without being absent or tardy.
The common school graduating system did much towards increasing the interest among the pupils, causing them to work for definite results. A class of sixteen was examined in 1881, and a class of fifteen in 1883. All received common school diplomas. The examinations of the pupils, and the exhibitions in which they participated at that time, were creditable to all concerned. Examinations have been held yearly since that time. Another praiseworthy result of the school is that it is largely self-sustaining in its teachers. Many of the teachers who have taught in the school have received all their education in it. At present, three of the teachers have attended the schools in which they now teach.
Churches. -- Among the first settlers were zealous Christians, who sowed the seed of piety from the foundation of the town, and have had the joyful satisfaction of reaping an abundant harvest. P. H. Hoffman was the first member of the M. E. Church, and for many years entertained the minister whenever he visited the town. Mr. Hoffman at first attended church at Millville, Curllsville, and Strattanville, an average distance of ten or twelve miles. By a continual effort on the part of Mr. Hoffman, meeting was held occasionally at Smith's schoolhouse, a distance of half a mile. At the time the first school-house was built in the place, quite a number of Methodists were then living there, and the meetings became regular. Mrs. Jacob Hilliard was the first member of the Baptist Church. Through her efforts, Rev. Thomas Wilson, a Baptist minister, preached occasionally in the school-house. J. B. Reese joined the church soon after. At this time joint revival meetings were held by the Methodists and Baptists, the converts joining the church of their choice at the close of the meetings. This lovely state of affairs, as might be expected, could not last long. The one church received too many, or the other too few. The one church blamed the other for proselyting, the mode of baptism being the rock upon which they split. Religious rivalry ran high. Many were the public debates on doctrinal points, the discussions lasting for weeks at a time. Revs. George Reeser, Ahab Keller, and others defended the doctrine of "sprinkling," while Revs. Thomas Wilson, B. H. Thomas, and others, with equal determination defended "immersion." The feeling extended to churches in other localities. Memorable among these was the debate on baptism at Strattanville shortly after. Whether these debates were productive of any great good, is still a question. One result was quite obvious. They gave to New Bethlehem two very substantial churches at a very early period. The Baptist church was built in 1852. The carpenter work was done by John Hamm. It is a neat and comfortable building, situated in the central part of the town, and is still in good condition. The workmanship and material from which it was built reflect credit on the builder and the congregation. A regular pastorate has not always been kept up, but services have been held by regular supplies, Rev. Collins, of East Brady, being the present supply. The M. E. Church was built in 1853 by the same architect that built the Baptist Church. While the members of the two churches differed very much at that time on baptism, the two buildings still look very much alike. The Methodist congregation was small, and not very well off in this world's goods. Several became financially embarrassed from the expense of erecting the church, and did not recover for long years after.
The congregation has maintained a regular pastorate since 1848. The following are the names of the pastors in order of their service: Revs. George Reeser, Ahab Keller, John Lyon, Jared Howe, John Whipple, John Boils, Thomas McCreary, Robert Beaty, S. A. Milroy, N. G. Luke, Thomas Graham, Joseph Weldon, G. Dunmire, A. P. Colton, Samuel Coon, O. M. Sacket, J. L. Mechlin, Clinton Jones, James Groves, J. B. Leedom, G. W. Anderson, -------- Tresize, J. C. McDonald, S. E. Winger, Cyril Wilson, E. R. Knapp, A. M. Lockwood, R. M. Felt, W. A. Baker.
The congregation has always been very courteous and liberal to other denominations in the use of their house. The following is copied from a sketch of the churches published in 1873, by a very worthy member of the Presbyterian Church: "This congregation has laid other denominations under deep and lasting obligations to them, by the Christian liberality which they have always shown by throwing wide open their doors for the occupancy of all orthodox bodies, and the writer of this, in behalf of the church to which he belongs, tenders them his grateful acknowledgment for such favors, and hopes for their kindness thus shown, they may as a church, and a people, prosper in Christian labors in time, and at last receive a more sure and lasting reward."
The third church was the Roman Catholic, built in 1872. It is beautifully located on high ground on Wood street. The architectural appearance does credit to the designer and builder, Mr. Osborne. Cost $3,000. Father McGiveiny has had charge since its erection. The congregation is large, and the church is in a prosperous condition. The fourth and last was the Presbyterian Church -- a two-story frame, erected in 1877, but was not finished until 1885. The designer and builder was Mr. Lewis Corbett. It is of modern architecture, and when completed cost $6,500. Rev. Joseph Mateer, D. D. -- now deceased -- a faithful and godly man, was the pastor during the time the church was being built. By his energy and zeal the church was pushed to completion, and Presbyterianism well established. He was a plain, unassuming man, of remarkable ability, and blessed with the gift of flowery eloquence.
Minerals. -- The town is surrounded by hills containing vast deposits of coal, iron ore, and limestone, but little was done toward developing the mineral resources of the surroundings until after the railroad was built, which was completed to the place in 1873. The first locomotive was run into the town on March 14, of that year. Messrs. Jones & Brinker immediately went to work developing the Fairmount Mines, which proved a success quite beyond their greatest expectation. Land around the town immediately went up to one and two hundred dollars per acre. In 1881 Jones & Brinker sold their interests at Fairmont to a New York coal company for $260,000, and moved to town. They purchased several farms one mile west of the town, and developed the celebrated Long Run mines, building a large number of coke ovens, and constructing three miles of railroad in connection with the mines; they, at the same time, erected in the town one of the largest store-buildings in the county. Everything was constructed of the best material, and in the most substantial and improved manner. The works were just finished and operations commenced, when they, too, were purchased by the New York company. Shortly after Jones & Brinker moved to Buffalo, N. Y., and the town lost two of its wealthiest and best citizens. In 1873 James H. Mayo, of Boston, Mass., moved to the place and commenced prospecting for coal on the Armstrong county side. He succeeded in developing the Bostonia Mines, which proved a natural curiosity in coal formation. Mr. Mayo received his first information of this coal deposit, from the Geological Survey of Pennsylvania, made by Professor Rodgers, of Philadelphia. After coming here and satisfying himself of the correctness of the geologist's report, he purchased the land under which it is deposited, and succeeded in forming a company of a number of wealthy and influential men of the city of Boston. Among the number were Hon. Chester Snow, Hon. Judge Higgins, Messrs. Crosby, Lane, Perkins and Job. The company was chartered the same year, immediately after its organization. Hon. Chester Snow was elected president, and Mr. Mayo, general superintendent. Work on a stupendous scale to properly develop the mine commenced immediately, which revealed a coal formation never before known. In driving the main entry they developed a vein of cannel coal eleven feet thick, underlaid with three feet of bituminous coal. Sixteen feet above the cannel coal vein is another vein of bituminous coal four and one-half feet thick; twenty feet above this is another vein, five and one-half feet thick, all lying beneath the same hill, and of a quality equal to any in the market. The company purchased several more farms adjoining the mines, laid out a town, built a number of substantial houses, several of which were grand and expensive. The railroad bridge across Redbank over which their shipments are sent, is condemned, and the mines are closed, and work suspended.
Oil Prospecting. -- Three test wells have been put down by the citizens of the place. The first one was drilled on the flat opposite C. O'Donell's, on the Armstrong county side in 1861. Philip Corbett, J. D. O'Donell, James McBride, Adam Shankle, Jacob Shaffer, did the work, but at the depth of 164 feet the greater part of those engaged on the well enlisted in the army, and the others abandoned it. The second one was put down by a company composed of the citizens, in May, 1886. It is situated on Valentine Miller's farm, two miles west of the town. At the depth of 1,350 feet they struck a vein of gas of 200 pounds pressure to the square inch. The company immediately laid a four-inch main from the well to the town, and at present almost every family is supplied with that most wonderful of modern conveniences, gas for fuel, and that at less cost than coal.
The same company put down another well in the latter part of the summer of 1886 on William Truitt's farm. At 1,400 feet it was abandoned as a dry hole.
Water Works. -- In 1882 the citizens organized a water company with a paid up capital stock of ten thousand dollars. They purchased two acres of land from Jos. Himes, and scooped out two great basins to the depth of six feet, lined the same with plank, and enclosed it with a frame building. The water is pumped into the cisterns from the creek, and then led from there through the principal streets by a six-inch main, buried from three to four feet under ground. Twenty-five patent water-plugs are placed along the streets to be used in case of fire. The basin has an altitude of two hundred feet above the streets, which gives a pressure sufficient to force the water from the water-plugs through hose three inches in diameter over the highest buildings. This has been very effective in extinguishing every fire since the completion of the works. Besides this precaution against fire, the council has purchased three chemical fire extinguishers, one of one hundred gallons capacity, and two of fifty-five gallons each.
Distilleries. -- The first distillery was built by George Trumble in 1840. It was a frame building forty by sixty feet, three stories high, and situated where the house of Jos. Himes, sr., now stands. The greater part of the product of the still was hauled by horses to Saint Mary's for market. Trumble sold the distillery to Mercer & Slaughenhaupt, who operated it until the farm on which it was located was purchased by Jos. Himes in 1848, who sold the machinery and tore down the building. The second distillery was built by Arthur O'Donell in 1860; it was situated on the lot now occupied by the Catholic Church. O'Donell sold it to Simon Sherman and Levi Reese. Shortly after the sale the building and contents burned down. Various theories exist as to the cause of the fire. A brewery was built on the same site in 1864. It, too, proved a bad investment and was finally torn down. So ended the manufacture of spirituous liquors within the town limits.
Cemeteries. -- The first cemetery was laid on the corner of Wood and Penn streets and contained half an acre. The early settlers buried their dead at the old cemetery at Millville. After the borough cemetery was filled the council purchased of Jos. Himes three acres, in 1865, situated in the northwest part of the borough, and opened Liberty street to it. Since that time all the dead have been buried there, and many bodies have been taken out of the old one and re-interred in the new. Samuel Lowry, in taking the body of his father from the old cemetery, after being buried for forty years, found the trunk and lower extremities to the knees of the body petrified, having a dark brown stone color, and perfectly natural in all other appearances. It required five men to lift it.
Medical Profession. -- The first physician that practiced in this place was Dr. James Irwin. He was succeeded by Drs. Shrader and Trumble, and they by Dr. Smith, who is still practicing in Warsaw, Wis. Smith was followed by Dr. A. S. McDill, who was very eminent in the profession, and a man of great moral worth. He also went west about 1854. Since that time he has twice been elected to the Legislature of his State, afterward appointed superintendent of the insane asylum of Madison, Wis. This position he resigned in 1872, being elected representative of the Forty-third Congress of United States. Dr. John Creswell succeeded McDill, coming to the town in 1855. Being a physician of great ability, he has built up a large and lucrative practice, which he still retains. Dr. H. M. Wick moved to the place in 1868, bringing with him the knowledge gained by twenty-four years of successful practice at Rockville. In him New Bethlehem received a valuable acquisition, both as a physician and a citizen. In 1870 he associated with him in practice his son, J. Addison Wick, who had just graduated from Jefferson Medical College. The two built up a large practice that was not confined to the town or county. In 1876 the elder Wick died, leaving the entire practice to his son, who, not being able to do the increased amount of labor, associated with him Dr. George Woods. Dr. B. F. Goheen located in the town in 1872. Being a man of enterprise, as well as an excellent physician, he rented the McNutt store-room and started a drug store, and associated with him his brother Hugh. In 1874 he purchased from Philip Corbett lot No. 11 on Broad street, and erected thereon the largest and finest building in the business part of the town. The building was fifty feet front, and eighty feet back, three stories high. The front room on the first floor was fitted and finished in the most approved style for a drug store. The remainder on the first floor was furnished in elegant style for his office; the upper stories finished for offices and lodge rooms. During the oil excitement at Parker, the doctor sold out his interests and moved to that place.
"New Bethlehem Savings Bank" was organized in 1872, with a capital of $50,000. The first officers were: C. E. Andrews, president, and J. R. Foster, cashier; directors, A. H. Allebach, H. M. Wick, John Cooper, Martin Williams, M. Arnold. The building is twenty-five by forty feet, two stories high. The lower story is occupied by the bank. It consists of two rooms. The private room is fifteen by fifteen feet. The front room is twenty-five by twenty-five feet. All the public business of the bank is carried on in this room. The vault is ten by fifteen feet. It is built of solid masonry from the basement to the first floor. The walls and ceiling are of brick and are two feet thick. The entrance from the banking room is guarded by double iron doors. Within the vault is the safe.
Thomas McKelvy was instrumental in establishing the first post-office. The mail was carried on horseback once a week from Kittanning to Brookville. Mr. McKelvy succeeded in having it stop at New Bethlehem during the trip going and coming. He held the position of postmaster till 1854, when C. E. Andrews was appointed, and, with the exception of two brief appointments of C. F. McNutt and S. B. Corbett, held the position to 1885, since which time J. E. Williams has had the position.
The town has given but one State and one county official to the public. Hon. Martin Williams served two terms in Pennsylvania Legislature and J. D. O'Donell, county coroner.
New Bethlehem has a population of 1,500 inhabitants, composed of a social,
intelligent and religious people, representing nearly all the interests
that make a great city -- good schools and good churches, four large hotels,
elegantly furnished, more than twenty merchants doing a good business,
excellent railroad accommodation, inexhaustible supply of pure water and
wonderful water-power, abundance of natural gas, situated in the heart
of the most productive land of the two counties, surrounded by four great
coal mines that employ more than seven hundred men, connected to Fairmount
City, Oak Ridge, and West Millville by level lands that will make beautiful
homes, and that have advantages for all kinds of manufacturing. Who will
predict the progress of the next century?